Perhaps the best news to report about Kevin Jordan is that his biggest physical concern these days is the quadriceps muscle that he pulled last summer.
“When it’s cold, it’s hard to get loose,” said Jordan, Wake Forest’s left fielder. “Besides that, I’m 100 percent. My kidney’s doing fine.”
Jordan, his kidney and Demon Deacons coach Tom Walter are back in Atlanta together for the first time since the kidney was Walter’s, and Jordan was anything but fine. Two Februarys ago at Emory University Hospital, Walter donated his kidney to Jordan, then a Wake Forest freshman suffering from a diseased kidney. The act brought widespread attention to the two.
They are here this time to face Georgia Tech in a three-game series that begins Friday evening. They are changed and intertwined forever, but the two are happy to let that aspect of their relationship take a step back.
“I think when his playing career at Wake Forest is over, our relationship will evolve again, but for now, we’re just player-coach,” Walter said.
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Walter said that members of the Emory team who performed the procedure plan to reunite at Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium. He also has arranged to meet a 6-year-old boy from Cumming, Hyde Talbot, who received a kidney from his uncle just a week before Jordan received his.
Walter has done fundraising and awareness work with the National Kidney Foundation and Carolina Donor Services for organ donation. He often meets or hears from people who donated kidneys or who have indicated their willingness to donate organs on their driver’s licenses because of his example.
“Anytime you have a life-changing experience like that, it opens your eyes to just see things a little differently,” Walter said.
It hasn’t hurt recruiting, either.
“When you tell something to a parent (about his intent to look after the recruit), you’re going to have some credibility,” he said.
After the February 2011 surgery, Jordan returned home to Columbus to recover and undergo rehabilitation. He went back to Wake Forest that summer for summer school. He took part in fall practice — recording the fastest 60-yard dash times on the team.
After that, Walter said, “I said, ‘OK, we’re going to be able to treat him like any other player.’”
The only daily reminders that Jordan has of his operation are the scar below his right abdomen and the anti-rejection medication he takes twice a day. He has quarterly visits to do lab work to check the health of his kidney. But, aside from a brief spell with a fever and nausea shortly after the surgery, he has been healthy.
“I felt good last year and I felt good this fall, but I feel really good (now),” said Jordan, whose parents moved from Columbus to Raleigh, N.C., to be closer to him.
Walter is proud of Jordan’s maturity and no-excuses attitude, even when he was on dialysis 10 hours a day during his first semester at Wake Forest in 2010. Jordan said he has learned perseverance and “almost a relaxation like, I have a feeling that things are going to be OK as long as I continue to work to better myself.”
He played 45 games as a redshirt freshman, starting 36, and hit .224. He wore a pad over his kidney that he has put aside this season. He is a part-time starter this season with a .167 average. Walter said he has made considerable strides in his hitting in the past two weeks and expects Jordan to finish the season strongly.
Managing their relationship has been tricky. Walter compared it with coaching a son, not wanting to go easy on him or overcompensate by being too harsh. That said, Jordan said he also worried that Walter might go easy on him and was relieved, in a way, when the coach tore into him soon after.
No kid gloves here.
“We’ll tease him, if he doesn’t get a bunt down, I’ll tell him I’m going to take it back,” Walter said.