Fifty-eight years old and a quarter-century out of football, Steve Jordan isn’t done fighting for the betterment of tomorrow’s NFL player.

“About a year and a half ago, Solomon Wilcots, who I played a year with [1991] in Minnesota, called about participating in a clinical study that could one day lead to detecting CTE [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] in a living brain,” said the former Vikings tight end. “If we can do that, it could improve treatment for those with CTE. I said, ‘Of course.’ ”

The study is based in downtown Phoenix at Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGEN) and is partnered with Aethlon Medical out of San Diego. The group set out 19 months ago to enroll 200 athletes, most of them current and former football players, to compare their results with a control group of people who weren’t subjected to repeated head trauma through sports.

Jordan, who lives in his native Arizona, and Wilcots were among the first nine former players who signed up to volunteer. In what took less than an hour to complete, they gave blood, urine and saliva samples and answered 140 background questions.

Since then, Jordan and others have been trying to recruit their NFL peers to join the study. They’ve gotten a little past the halfway point of the desired total of 200.

“One of the things I like about this study is it could lead to something that would be affordable and easy, if you will, for a person to take down the road,” Jordan said. “There are a lot of people going down that path toward complications due to CTE. Rather than being told they have to do a CT scan or brain scans that are very expensive and not 100 percent yet, this could turn out to be something that’s affordable and easy and more available to everybody.”

That’s the hope. And hope for the next generation of NFL players has been a constant in Jordan’s life since 1982 when the Vikings used their seventh-round pick on the pass-catching tight end — not to mention bright, budding civil engineer — from Brown University.

Jordan entered the NFL during the ’82 players strike. He went on to become player union rep, a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee and union vice president.

In 1987, following another NFL work stoppage, Jordan was one of the named plaintiffs in the NFLPA’s antitrust lawsuit. That led to the landmark collective bargaining agreement in the early 1990s and unrestricted free agency for those who came after Jordan’s final snap in 1994. His off-the-field work certainly wasn’t a distraction. He strung together six Pro Bowls during a 13-year Vikings career that landed him in the team’s Ring of Honor last Thursday night.

“What I learned early on was the issues facing NFL players are too important to not be involved,” Jordan said. “Doing the studies trying to understand the issues that guys were having, the mortality studies, it was obvious safety was a big deal for us.

“You hear [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell say today that, ‘Player safety is our No. 1 priority,’” Jordan said. “But truth be told, those who know the truth know that if it weren’t for the players’ association, we would not be where we are today when it relates to understanding CTE and the importance of player safety in the NFL. And that safety trickles down to high school and college player safety as well.”

Like a lot of former NFL players, Jordan called the NFL’s recent $1 billion, 65-year concussion settlement “inadequate.” That’s another reason he’s doing his part to help the next generation. Plus, as he likes to say, he still has “skin” in the game in the form of his son Cam, an All-Pro defensive end for the Saints.

“I’m always about being proactive,” Jordan said. “So one of the things I think we can do is try to engage people and try to get them to participate in these studies. There are a lot of good things taking place. Let’s step up and help find solutions. Let’s try to improve the outcome for all guys who play this wonderful game.”

 

Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: mcraig@startribune.com