PHOENIX - Over the winter break, the Phoenix College Athletics family said goodbye to a historical Alumnus: Ira Gordon.
Ira Lawrence Gordon, born on May 5th, 1947, was a former Phoenix College Student-Athlete; and the second Phoenix College football player to play in the NFL. Six years after Andy Livingston, in 1964, who was drafted by the Chicago Bears.
Born in the Southern town of Kilbourne, Louisiana, Ira went on to attend Combs-McIntyre High School in near-by Oak Grove, LA. It would be a Mathematics Scholarship to the-then “Phoenix Union College,” that enticed the 6’3, 275 lbs Offensive Lineman to pack his bags for what the future held in the “Valley of the Sun.”
Following a two-year stint at Phoenix College, Mr. Gordon’s NFL hopes became brighter when Vince Gibson’s Kansas State University recruited Gordon to attend the Wildcats’ program on scholarship. In his two years with the program, Kansas State posted a 9-11 record, with Ira playing across the left side of the offensive line. He started 14 of 20 possible games for the Wildcats, including every game his senior year.
After his senior campaign at K-State, Gordon subsequently entered the 1970 NFL Draft. In the eighth round (190th Overall Pick), the Philadelphia Eagles selected Ira Gordon from Phoenix College (JC) and Kansas State University.
A move to Philadelphia was short-lived. As, in the coming weeks, Gordon would be traded to the San Diego Chargers. During his time in San Diego, Gordon played 62 games for the Chargers and started 28- total (last two seasons). He recovered three fumbles during his career.
Going into the 1976 season, the 6’3 Lineman was left “unprotected” in the 1976 expansion Draft. After being left unprotected, Gordon was (then) drafted in the 15th round of the Expansion Draft by the newly-awarded Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise.
A series of moves by the brand-new franchise saw age over-power experience. The Bucs went-on to cut Ira and countless others, in attempts to solidify young talent. The moves left the team with nine former Bengals on their roster. A situation they expected, as they knew that Bengals owner Paul Brown had more young talent than he would be able to keep on his team. The gamble was not fruitful, as their inaugural season finished at a winless, 0-14.
At the end of his seven-year NFL career, Mr. Gordon relocated back to Phoenix, AZ. In his new-found home, Ira’s next path would come as a Drug Counselor for local High School students. During his 35-year tenure as a Mentor and Drug Counselor throughout the Valley, Ira led youth groups and High School programs (mainly in South Phoenix) focused on education, drug prevention and leadership.
A religious man, Ira carried the spirit of God everywhere he went. His son, Derrick Gordon, remembers someone who was “always joyful,” and “always good to others.” He was an avid member of the local church, and volunteered around his community. During the family’s weekly church attendance, Ira would often sing and play his Guitar; singing Christian hymns and occasionally crafting his own Gospel songs. He was a Saint to his community.
When he was not entertaining Church services or enjoying time with his grandchildren, Ira loved to sight-see. Whether the drive was short or long; the destination was always worth it. He enjoyed the open-world just as much as his grandchildren.
Our time on this Earth is limited. It is what you do in that time, and who you impact, that leaves your legacy to be remembered. Ira Gordon was someone who embodied the meaning of “selflessness.” The impacts he has made in the South Phoenix community will last for years to come.
Ira Lawrence Gordon May 5, 1947 - December 25, 2018