Meet one of the NFL’s fashion police
Sienna Plantation resident keeps Texan players in uniform complience
By Joe Southern
When Darin Jordan watches the Houston Texans play, he sees a lot more than just runs, passes, catches, kicks and tackles.
He sees what few others see and that’s what he’s paid to do. The Sienna Plantation resident and former National Football League player is a uniform inspector for the league. Jokingly referring to himself as the fashion police, it’s his job to make sure that the players are properly dressed before they take the field.
“They try to get away with so much,” he said.
The 52-year-old, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1988 and played with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders through the 1994 season, said he sees himself as a “guardian to the football player.”
He said uniform inspection is twofold. First is the safety inspection to make sure everyone is wearing their pads, have chinstraps fastened properly and are attired in the official uniform. The second is a little trickier. That part is to make sure they haven’t turned themselves into human billboards for companies not contracted to the NFL.
“They cannot wear anything that’s not sanctioned by the NFL,” he said.
He clarified that to say they can, but it will cost them.
“We don’t have the authority to tell them they have to take it off, but we will report it,” he said.
Jordan said the NFL – or The Shield, as he calls it – hires former players to serve as uniform inspectors. There are two at every game – one for each team – and this is his second year with the Texans. He only works home games.
On game day, he inspects the players in the locker room before pre-game warm-ups and then on the field during warm-ups. His vigilance continues throughout the game and even after the game back in the locker room.
He said most of the time players out of compliance with the uniform code will correct the problem when it’s brought to their attention. He also gives them at least three warnings before reporting violations. He will photograph the violation and show it to the player.
“Do I hit send or delete?” he said.
One of the problems he encounters are unscrupulous companies who pay players to wear their product and agree to pay any fines. The fines, however, escalate with each infraction.
“They increase fines for stupid stuff,” he said.
Most of the problems Jordan encounters are matters of neatness – untucked shirts, drooping socks and such. Occasionally he will come across a player not wearing knee or thigh pads, but once caught they always correct it.
“What I’m asking you to do won’t affect your play on the field,” he said. “It will affect your wallet.”
He said a lot of players will complain about uniform inspections, but he sees himself more as any ally, not an enemy.
“There are eyes in the sky. The NFL can see who’s doing what. Part of my job is to help these guys,” he said. “If I can help these guys out, why not?”
Also, if the NFL catches something he misses, they will come back on him. He, like any other NFL employee, goes through a job performance review.
Jordan said players can wear jewelry and there are no limits on their tattoos. What they can’t do is wear unauthorized gear – like hats or wristbands – or put messages on their uniforms or gear. He said that originated with Jim McMahon, the former Chicago Bears quarterback who infamously feuded with former commissioner Pete Rozelle with messages on headbands.
As a player in the 1990s, Jordan didn’t worry about uniform inspections.
“None of that that I new of was enforced,” he said. “We had more freedom on what you wore and how you looked.”
Today, he said the NFL works hard to project a certain image. So does Jordan. He can often be seen on the sidelines “all pimped out” in flashy suits and a snappy fedora.
“I want to put on a good impression,” he said. “Not only do I represent The Shield, but I represent Darin Jordan, the Jordan family and my wife.”
His wife is Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan, an associate professor in pediatric surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School and surgical oncology and pediatrics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She did her residency at the University of California Davis-East Bay in Oakland while Darin Jordan was playing as a linebacker for the 49ers.
When the 49ers cut him, he could have gone on to other teams, but he elected to retire from football and raise their two children while his wife finished her residency and launched her career. They have two children who are collegiate athletes. Jordan said he has no regrets about walking away from the game.
“I chose to walk away from the game and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
His identity is wrapped up in his faith and family, not football.
“It’s what I did, not who I am,” he said.
These days he rarely gets recognized unless he is wearing a piece of NFL fashion every player strives for – a Super Bowl ring. He has the distinction of being one of the only players in history to play in a Super Bowl without having played during the regular season or the playoffs.
He was an emergency re-hire by the 49ers in 1995 between the NFC championship game and Super Bowl XXIX. He played in the game – the last of his career.
Now he gets to enjoy the rush of being on the sidelines again without having to put up with all the work and pain that goes into playing. That suits him just fine.