GLENDALE, Ariz.—Dion Jordan waited a long time for this moment. Nearly three years, in fact.
And in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks' 22-16 win at Arizona Thursday, years of heartbreak and disappointment, years of hard work and rehab, years of trying to work his way back onto an NFL field, it was all rewarded in a big way.
With the Seahawks protecting a two-score lead late in an important NFC West battle, Jordan lined up across from Cardinals tackle John Wetzel, then after the snap, he simply overpowered Wetzel, walking him all the way back to Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton, allowing Jordan to record his first sack since Dec. 21, 2014. And this wasn't just Jordan's first game with the Seahawks, it was his first NFL game since the end of that 2014 season.
"Just a journey," Jordan said in the Seahawks visitor's locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium. "It's just a journey. Another step in my life towards everything that I want as a young man and as a football player. It's just been a journey. Like I keep saying I just put my head down and I wake up every morning to try to really just be the best version of myself. I work hard, come to work, do what I'm asked."
That journey Jordan references has seen him go from No. 3 overall pick out of the University of Oregon to a player many labeled a bust to, thanks to a combination of suspension an injuries, a player who did not play a single game for two full seasons.
"So happy for Dion," defensive end Michael Bennett said. "Dion deserved to get his sack. He's put in all the hard work. He's done everything we need him to get back and the best part about it is he's been humble about it. His story is extraordinary and his work ethic is extraordinary and to see him triumph after everything he's been through is just a beautiful moment for us as individuals, for him, and then us as a team to watch somebody go through something like that and watch them succeed."
Jordan, who missed last season with a knee injury, then was released during the offseason by Miami, the team that picked him the first round four years earlier. The Seahawks signed him in April, but a setback in offseason workouts meant more rehab and opening the season on the NFI list. He finally was able to return to practice two weeks ago, then was activated for Thursday's game, which happened to be played a short drive from his hometown of Chandler.
"I know that the guys are fired up about how hard he played and tough he played," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "But he hadn't played football in two years, you know? He had his family here and all that, everybody drove down for the game and all, so really ecstatic for him. It's been such a haul, so really proud of that whole thing."
Added Jordan, "My mother was in the stands, my grandma was back home watching. It's huge. It's blessing like I keep saying. It's a blessing. I'm thankful. It's all good."
And Jordan's return wasn't just some sort of feel-good story, he also has a chance to be a very important player for the Seahawks in the second half of the season. The Seahawks lost Cliff Avril to a neck injury earlier this year, and have battled other less serious injuries on the line that have tested their depth. On Thursday, for example, both Frank Clark and Jarran Reed were unable to finish the game, which likely contributed to the fact that Jordan played 41 percent of the defensive snaps, the fifth most of any Seahawks defensive lineman.
Jordan not only played a lot, but he played well, recording a team-high three quarterback hits, and according to ProFootballFocus.com, two additional quarterback pressures, giving him the best pressure rate of his career.
"It is absolutely a blessing to see him out there," rookie defensive tackle Nazair Jones said. "He worked so hard in the offseason and training camp and everything, just to get back out there with us on the practice field and today he got his chance. I'm proud of him."
After Jordan took Wetzel for that ride, then tripped up Stanton for his first sack in nearly three years, Jordan leapt to his feet with his hands in the air. He then tapped his chest, then held his hands together as if saying a very brief prayer.
"It's a blessing," Jordan said sitting as his locker, still trying to process what had taken place. "I feel thankful. I don't know. I'm really happy right now, honestly, I'm not showing it much, but I'm really happy and thankful. I'm thankful to have the teammates I have, I'm thankful to have the coaches, the people in the training room, everybody giving me a chance.
"I'm lucky to be able to come to work with a group of guys like this and an organization like this. I'm thankful. We have a lot of fun playing football here."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 22-16 victory over the in Week 10 at University of Phoenix Stadium.