METAIRIE, La. -- Cameron Jordan made his first NFL-USO Tour in 2017 to visit troops in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The experience was so powerful that Jordan was back doing it again in South Korea earlier this month.
"I don’t know how many they’re gonna allow me to go on. It’s like, 'All right Cam, you can't come to every one,'" joked the New Orleans Saints defensive end, who credited friend and former teammate Akiem Hicks for selling him on the idea after Hicks made his own trip in 2015.
Then last year, Jordan urged close friend and teammate Mark Ingram to do the same.
"When you're younger, you feel like the older guys go -- Drew [Brees] goes or Ben Watson goes. And it's like, 'Oh, all right, I’ve got some years before [it's my turn] or I've got to build a respectable name,'" Jordan said. "No bro, they see you giving your time, and it's so much more than just your name."
As many times as I've been able to have the ability to show appreciation to our military back in college & now in the nfl. @The_Dream99 sold me on the @the_USO tour a few yrs back and I absolutely love every opportunity to meet and show my gratitude to the servicemen overseas...— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) April 7, 2019
I urge my @Saints @NFL fam to look into @the_USO opp to not only learn & gain a new perspective about all our military does,but how much they are under-appreciated in terms of the circumstances they face & are so readily prepared for,in serving our Country. #SaluteToService pic.twitter.com/kF2Nc0epWp— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) April 7, 2019
Jordan, who joined Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel, New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack on this latest tour, said the biggest impact for him is seeing how committed the troops are despite being isolated from their families.
“Just the perspective they put on how much they love the idea that they’re so close to [the demilitarized zone on the border of North Korea] -- the line of defense of protecting the people of South Korea and protecting the ideals of America. You see the commitment that they have,” Jordan said. “And hear them talking about wanting to re-enlist and some of these guys want to be close to home but just continue serving America. You understand exactly what we sort of take for granted daily.”
Jordan said he had a grandfather and an uncle who served -- which he also took for granted until he went on his first USO Tour. Before that, Jordan said he never really sat down and asked his uncle about his experience in the Navy. Jordan also said he has started visiting more bases throughout Louisiana in recent years.
As for the other special moments from this latest tour, getting to ride in a tank was probably a close second for Jordan. The only thing better would be getting a chance to drive it, he said.
Maybe on his next tour.
One of the times in life I'm overly grateful for the experiences Gods blessed me with and the ability to be able to be on this @nfl -USO tour, in korea. Overly appreciative of our troops and all they do #salutetoservice pic.twitter.com/d5KObqdc9D— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) April 3, 2019
Jordan also was proud of the way he was able to fend off a K-9 from the security forces unit. Sure, he was wearing full-body padding. But Ingram infamously got rag-dolled by one of the dogs last year. And Jordan said both Jack and Gostkowski got taken out this year too, while he said Daniel chose to avoid contact in true quarterback fashion.
Jordan said it is also always special to see how many die-hard "Who Dats" are out there -- including the group of troops who call themselves the "Louisiana Boys" that he met at the base in Osan.
The USO Tour was hardly Jordan’s only adventure over the past month, though. He and his wife, Nikki, also traveled to France, Abu Dhabi, Beijing and Hong Kong before he spent a day gambling in Macau. Among the highlights was a trek across the Great Wall of China; visiting a 24-karat gold bar (as in bar and restaurant) in Dubai; and tasting snake venom wine in Hong Kong.
When asked if that last one was a highlight because of the taste or just the experience, Jordan said, "It definitely didn’t taste good. … It was definitely the experience."
"I needed to go around the world," Jordan said. "I’d never fully been around the world. And especially with your other half. It’s one thing to travel by yourself or with your boys.
"Luckily she’s a lot like me, all about the experience and trying new places. She may not try all new food, but new places."
Jordan then wrapped up his monthlong trip by spending a couple of days in-studio as a guest analyst for the NFL Network -- something the four-time Pro Bowler has done frequently over the years as a possible path to a second career.
When asked if all of his worldwide adventures helped to wash out the taste of the gut-wrenching loss in the NFC Championship Game, Jordan said not really.
In fact, Jordan said he never really had a chance to reflect on it during those next two weeks, when he was asked about the game and the infamous no-call "no less than 200 times from immediately right after we lost, then going to the Pro Bowl, then having to re-answer these questions at Super Bowl week."
"You sort of just get calloused to it. And I didn’t even start talking about how I really felt about it. I was just like scorned for two weeks," Jordan said. "But it’s definitely something once you start working out, once you start seeing guys that you love and guys you’ve bled and sweated with go to other teams [like Ingram and fellow defensive linemen Alex Okafor and Tyeler Davison], you realize your locker room is never gonna be the same. I mean that really, really hurts.
“It was one thing to lose the way we did. It’s another thing to see the effects of free agency happen too. You’re never gonna get the same locker room back. And I think last year’s locker room was the greatest, like -- I would say the brotherhood of the locker room was as intimate and close as you’re gonna get.”
Jordan insisted that he is undaunted as he heads into Year 9, though, and he is determined to solidify the "legacy" that he and the team have been building over the past decade.