Freshly showered and walking through Tulane University’s Wilson Center on the third day of spring football practice, senior safety Jordan Sulllen didn’t hesitate when asked what he missed last season after he was disqualified by the university for an honor-code violation.
“Being with my team, being with my friends, my coaches,” said Sullen, his muscular physique and arm-sleeve of tattoos a contrast to his warm, eloquent voice and black horn-rimmed glasses.
But Sullen’s reunion with the Green Wave comes without another season on the gridiron with close friend Devon Walker, a safety that last season suffered a horrific injury that cost Walker his football dreams and almost his life.
“We’ve being playing football together since we were 6 years old, starting out at the Cut Off playground in lower Algiers. We’re the best of friends. And now, I have big shoes to fill — his.”
Sullen is attempting to do that as the Green Wave continues spring practice (it’s being held at the New Orleans Saints’ practice facility, shielded in secrecy from the evaluating eyes of the media and public).
Sullen was signed by Tulane as a wide receiver out of Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. He was quickly moved to cornerback, where as a three-year letterman he recorded 52 solo tackles and shined on kickoff returns (in 2010, Sullen averaged 20-plus yards). But with a year prohibiting Sullen from being a part of the team, he returns for his senior season, slated to play both strong and free safety in the 3-4 scheme employed by defensive coordinator Lionel Washington.
“He’s just a good football player,” Washington said of Sullen. “Even when he wasn’t with the team over the last year, he was constantly following the program set up by our strength and conditioning coach, Rob Phillips, which (he) did enthusiastically. Now, he’s back, working harder, moving better, running faster.”
The 6-foot Sullen bulked up from 186 to 197 pounds during the offseason. He also trained with NFL combine consultant Carter Stern at his Final Fitness facility in Jefferson Parish. Sulllen said Stern recently clocked at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
The buzz surrounding the talented recruiting class just collected by coach Curtis Johnson and his staff leaves Washington enthusiastic. Washington said he is anticipating Sullen’s “experience and physicality” will set the tone for his defense, for the incoming freshmen and the other young players (he started three freshmen in the secondary last year).
During his year away from football, Sullen worked with various football alumni from Karr, a group that includes NFL players Robert Royal and Patrick Surtain.
Sullen has advice to give to his own, namely talking with freshman players about “always keeping their composure and (realizing) that we often have targets on our backs.”