Neuqua's Maclin stays strong after injury, father's death

Jordan Maclin thought his injury was tragic.

The Neuqua Valley receiver had spent countless hours in speed training during the last year, and he had become the second-fastest player on the team.

It all seemed like a waste of time when he was writhing in pain at a 7-on-7 tournament at Naperville Central in July, the victim of a dislocated hip that he was told would end his season before it started.

"When I went to the orthopedic doctor with my father and mother they said, 'It looks like it will take three or four months to heal, so you probably won't be playing this year,' " Maclin said. "I thought it was the end of my world. I was seriously crying. My mom and dad said, 'Don't listen. You are a strong kid. They don't know your drive and potential.' "

Orville "Big O" Maclin and his trademark cowboy hat and boots were a staple at Neuqua Valley's practices, so he had witnessed his son's development first-hand.

He was not, however, around for Jordan Maclin's shining moment in Neuqua Valley's 27-20 victory over Simeon in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs last week.

About six weeks after Jordan thought his world had ended, real tragedy struck.

Orville Maclin died of a heart attack in his sleep on Aug. 21. The Julian High School and Northern Illinois graduate was two months shy of his 43rd birthday.

"It was very random," Jordan said. "Everyone was shocked when it happened. He fell asleep that night talking about how proud he was of me. I had just gotten back on the field and was practicing again. He didn't see me fully recovered, but he was proud I got back to full speed."

Trying to escape

Jordan Maclin went to practice the next day, breaking down as he broke the news to his teammates.

Football, he was advised, would be a good way to escape for a few hours at a time.

Trouble was, it had the opposite effect.

"There was a time I was thinking about quitting because every time I thought about football, I thought about my dad," Jordan said. "He was always there with his cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Maybe two or three kids on the team didn't know my dad. He was out there talking to everyone, 'Hey, I saw you make that play. Good job.' "

Telling himself, "Maclins don't quit," Jordan continued to rehabilitate his injury. He dressed for games, but instead of wearing a helmet on the sideline, the cowboy hat sat atop his head.

Fellow receiver Mikey Dudek, the team's best player, paid tribute by writing "Big O" on his wrist bands.

"I dedicated my season to him," said Dudek, who will play for Illinois next year. "This has been very tough for Jordan. We've all had his back, all showed him we were there for him. I think that helped him get through it."

No escaping

Orville Maclin almost never escapes Jordan's mind, but for some reason, he said, he did not cry at the funeral.

But when Neuqua's second regular-season game took him back to Naperville Central, where the injury occurred, Maclin lost it.