When a 72-year-old man with two fake knees straps on a dummy parachute and climbs a 35-foot jump tower others tend to follow, and that's what happened when Lee Roy Jordan put his 1971 Super Bowl ring in his pocket and tumbled into the air at Fort Benning Monday morning.
Nothing unusual about that, for Jordan has always been a leader. He was a leader when he played under Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama, and by the time he was a rookie linebacker under Tom Landry he was leading the Dallas Cowboy defense.
"Coach Bryant expected you to be first in line and he wanted you to be there on time. Those things became part of your life if you wanted to survive," said Jordan, a tackling machine who suited up for three Super Bowls in 14 NFL seasons.
It has been 51 years since he played for Bryant, but Jordan still invokes his name and preserves his legacy.
"He had a tremendous message. He said he wasn't teaching us the game of football that he was teaching us the game of life," said Jordan, in town for a meeting of the Russell/Muscogee County Alabama National Alumni Association.
Jordan and former Crimson Tide running back Siran Stacy joined local grads at Green Island Country Club Monday night where the special guests were eight Wounded Warriors from the Fort Benning chapter.
Before they gathered to talk about prospects for the upcoming season, they went to Fort Benning where Sgt. Matt Gobble -- who wasn't even born when Jordan played -- asked him to autograph a souvenir football.
When Jordan played at Alabama, Bryant had already established his ruthless style, especially at Texas A&M where he took the Aggies into the Texas dust bowl to find out who wanted to play and who didn't.
Bryant was just as hard on them at Alabama.
"We practiced on a fenced field that had barbwire on the top of the fence," Jordan said. "You could only quit before and after practice."
Jordan thrived. He helped the Tide to a national championship and except for a 7-6 loss to Georgia Tech there might have been two. He was small but relentless, inspired by an inspiring coach.
Landry was not so emotional.
"If he had been a little more emotional like Coach Bryant we might have won even more," Jordan said.
Since retiring in 1976 he and his three sons have operated a lumber company in Dallas. Though he is one of the most decorated Cowboy players in history, he is still waiting an invitation to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Among Crimson Tide faithful, he remains a legend. But when he and Stacy scaled the jump towers near the Airborne School they treated the young soldiers with respect.
"This is the Real Deal," Stacy said. "You are the true American heroes."