He's been a Patriot, a Giant, a Redskin, a Jaguar, a Raven, a Lion and a Viking. And now he's going to a Locomotive. And those aren't Halloween costumes that Jake Nordin has worn in his life. Those are the football teams he's been with at one time or another in his pro career.
"I've worn a lot of different helmets," laughed Nordin, by telephone on Thursday after he had just been told he made the Las Vegas Locomotives team of the new United Football League. "But I'm not complaining. I love playing football and as long as I'm playing somewhere, I'm happy."
Nordin, a former Northern Illinois University tight end, played high school football for Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and helped them win a state title in 2001. He was not selected in the NFL draft, but signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots and later signed with the aforementioned teams, but was relegated mostly to practice squads. He did play in one regular season NFL game with the Baltimore Ravens three seasons ago. He was among the final cuts by the Vikings just before the regular season began this year. He appeared in all of their preseason games while catching two passes. After two weeks of being idle and looking for a team to play with, Nordin signed with the Locomotives. His head coach is former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel, the NFL Coach of the Year in 2000.
"I was just home mowing lawn and helping coach the ACGC team," said Nordin, when asked what he was doing prior to hearing from his agent about the Locomotives' offer. "My agent called and said he got me a job with the UFL. So I flew to Casa Grande (Ariz.) where our practice facility is. I'm really excited for the season to start so I can play football again."
The UFL is a four-team league that plays by NFL rules on Thursday and Friday evenings. The league is looking to expand by at least three more teams next season. For now, each team plays six games, plus a championship game on Thanksgiving weekend. The season begins next Thursday night with the California Redwoods playing the Locomotives at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The game will be televised on Versus at 8 p.m.
Besides Fassel, former New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett, former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green, and former Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell are the other head coaches. Haslett coaches the Florida Tuskers, Green is with the Redwoods and Cottrell is head coach of the New York Sentinels.
There are plenty of familiar names in the new league; several of them have NFL playing experience or have been affiliated with professional teams.
"There are a lot of good players here," said Nordin. "It's the ultimate goal of everyone to get to the NFL. But this is exciting and should be a fun league to play in."
Nordin's quarterbacks include former San Francisco 49er Tim Rattay and former Buffalo Bill J.P. Losman. Eric Henderson, the brother of Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, is a defensive end for the Locomotives. He was with the Vikings in training camp before being released. Tony Parrish, who spent nine seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, is a Locomotives' defensive back. And Las Vegas wide receiver Az-Zahir-Hakim spent nine seasons in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. Former Vikings running back Amp Lee is the Las Vegas running backs coach.
Ryan Hoag, a Gustavus Adolphus standout wide receiver who tried out with the Vikings, is on the New York Sentinels' roster, as is former Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson. Former Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins plays for the Tuskers and former Vikings quarterback Mike McMahon, who also played for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, is on the Redwoods' roster.
Nordin is playing the H-back position for the Locomotives, similar to what Jim Kleinsasser does for the Vikings, in which he lines up in the backfield or at tight end.
Nordin will earn $36,000 for the six-game season and can receive a $5,000 bonus if the team wins the championship and $2,500 if they are runners-up.
"It sure beats mowing lawn," the 6-4, 265-pound tight end explained. "And it pays better. I've never given up trying to catch on with a team or fulfill my dream of playing in the NFL. This gives me another chance to show what I can do. I'm going to give it everything I've got."
It's full steam ahead for this Locomotive.