NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In many ways, Bruce Jordan is like most freshmen at Brother Martin High School. He gets up every morning, goes to school and works hard in the classroom. He also loves sports. Just last Friday he played a big role in the Crusader freshmen basketball team's victory over arch rival Jesuit.
But his first love is football. Last season as a freshmen running back and linebacker, he excelled immediately on the varsity squad.
"We all know the name Leonard Fournette and signing with LSU this year and we are all excited about him. Well people ask me about Bruce Jordan, and I tell him he has every bit of potential as he did at this age," Mark Bonis, Brother Martin head football coach, told FOX 8 Sports.
One can say life is as good as it's ever been for Bruce.
"It's a blessing; I really wanted this," said Bruce, who is already 6'1 and more than 200 lbs.
If it seems like Bruce has a greater sense of appreciation than most high school freshmen, maybe it's because life hasn't always been this enjoyable for him. He spent parts of his childhood in Central City and the Lafitte projects, where poverty and violence were a part of his everyday existence.
"It was bad, it was mostly bad. I saw a lot of violence all over," said Bruce.
Bruce's journey from the inner city to Brother Martin is certainly a unique one. And it began with a chance meeting between him and Pat Swilling. Yes, the same Pat Swilling that starred for the Saints and was a member of the famed Dome Patrol in the late 80s and early 90s.
"I got an AAU basketball team that I've had now for five years and we met Bruce through a friend of mine who brought Bruce and another kid to practice," said Swilling. "Bruce showed up in Timberlands and some cutoff shorts and we let him play a little bit and he jumped up and almost touched the rim. I think he was about 12 or 13 and that caught my eye so we thought we would keep this guy around. Things kind of took off from there."
Pat's wife, Robin, played a role as well keeping up with each player's school grades. That's where the Swillings sensed something was wrong.
"He called me one morning, it was about 9:30, and I thought that was strange because you should be in school at 9:30. I said 'what's wrong Bruce?' And he said 'can you come and get into school.' So I questioned him: 'Bruce I thought your mom enrolled you in school.' And he said 'no, I thought she did, but she didn't.'"
Not only was he not enrolled, he had trouble getting grades from the previous school year. So Robin stepped in to help, but in order to do that, the Swillings needed to become Bruce's legal guardians. Bruce's biological mother agreed to give them the guardianship and that's where Bruce's education journey began. First at Miller-McCoy Academy, then to Arthur Ashe and eventually to Brother Martin.
"Our main goal was to get him at Brother Martin and in order to get into Brother Martin, there are certain paths that you have to take. And you have to be qualified to get there," said Robin.
Throughout that process, it became more difficult to assist Bruce in two separate homes, so the Swillings, as a family, decided to move him into theirs.
"Pat will tell you and anybody will tell you that knows Bruce, Bruce is not a problem child and was never a problem child," said Robin. "Bruce came to us with everything that he needed to succeed, he just needed someone to guide him. That's the role that Pat and I play - to guide him, to give him some stability and hope."
The Swillings had no reservations about bringing a kid from the rough inner city streets into their home.
"I've been asked that. Can you trust him? Yes I trust him," Pat said. "He's one of my kids and they've been around us for years now. He just happens to live with us; he happens to be family now."
The three biological Swilling children - Patrick, Starr and Trey - all welcomed Bruce with open arms.
"When my dad and mom came to ask how would I feel if Bruce moved in with us, I was like, 'yes, please!'"
"For me it was Patrick, Starr and Trey, my three other kids. A lot of kids would think maybe they're not getting something or they are going to be missing something when a new kid comes into your life, but from day one Patrick accepted him, Starr treats him like a brother and Trey obviously lives with him every day and they are like brothers."
And like brothers, when one hurts, so does the other one, which is exactly what happened just weeks ago when Bruce's biological mother passed away.
"We were very close and when I got the phone call, I broke down in tears," Bruce recalled.
"I'm so grateful that God put him in our lives when he did, because he was able to accept his mother's death," Robin explained. "It's hard. I still have my mom, Pat still has his mom. But at least he had us to fall back on and we are going to be there no matter what."
Their next obstacle could come in the near future. Since Bruce had to repeat the eighth grade, he's been ruled athletically ineligible for his senior year. The Swillings insist that happened because Bruce missed two months of school while hospitalized for health issues, not to gain any athletic advantage.
"They are telling us we have to go back to them his junior year and re-submit for it because they didn't know the total process and everything that had happened especially the 60 to 70 days he missed from school," Pat explained. "We feel good about it, but we want them to understand the full ramifications of why we held him back."
As for the present, Bruce is flourishing as a Crusader. The kid who just a few years ago was reading at a third grade level just finished his last semester with a 3.1 GPA.
As for the Swillings, they'll officially adopt Bruce at the end of the school year and continue to be a stabilizing force in his life.
"Basically what we are doing right now, we have to go through the adoption process and finish that and he wants to, I guess his last name is going to be full now, he is going to be Bruce Jordan –Swilling," said Pat.
"This was just meant to be," Robin reflected. "The way that things came to play being brought to us at the gym. From that day, to us bringing him home, our family started then."
"I actually always think about that," Bruce said. "I was wondering where would I always end up, and I ended up here."
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