Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 NOV. 4, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA T he toughest year of Nana Osafo- Mensah's Notre Dame career was 2020. No other compares. Osafo-Mensah tore his menis- cus late in the summer. The injury held him out of all 12 Fighting Irish games. That was after he earned playing time in only two games as a true freshman in 2019. He was bound to see some action as a sophomore if not for the banged up knee. He has played in all but one of Notre Dame's 34 games the last three seasons. Osafo-Mensah's parents didn't go to Notre Dame's games in 2020, partly because their son wasn't playing and partly because Notre Dame Stadium had attendance parameters in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Ev- ery Saturday, Osafo-Mensah was more than 1,000 miles from his home without family to spend time with or football to play. That stung. All of it. It was still nothing like the sting he felt early on the morning after Christ- mas, six days before his Irish team- mates — those healthy enough to do so — kicked off against Alabama in Notre Dame's second College Football Playoff appearance in the last three years. The holidays. Notre Dame in the CFP. It was supposed to be a joyous time for Osafo-Mensah, something to take his mind off a trying semester. It wasn't. He found out through an ESPN notification that one of his best high school friends, Ty Jordan, died via an accidental gun- shot wound on Christmas night. Osafo-Mensah immediately called Joey Moss, an assistant coach at his and Jordan's high school training out- fit, True Buzz Athletics, through which they were seven-on-seven teammates. Moss answered and confirmed what Osafo-Mensah and so many others couldn't believe. Didn't want to believe. Jordan, 19, was gone. Forever. "He was broken up about it," Moss told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "He took it rough. He really hated to hear the news." 'ALL SO SURREAL' Jordan was a record-setting fresh- man running back at Utah at the time of his passing. Osafo-Mensah remembers watching Jordan run 83 times for 597 yards and 6 touchdowns and catch 11 passes for 126 yards in five games on his way to winning Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and second-team All-Pac-12 accolades. He was a first- team Freshman All-American per The Athletic. "He had a bright future," Osafo- Mensah told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "A super bright future. That's all we wanted for him. To see his life get taken by something that's so avoidable like a gun accident, it just sucks to see that." The fatality occurred in Denton, Texas. Jordan was home on holiday break in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In a twist of fate, Notre Dame's play- off game, the Rose Bowl, was moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Osafo-Mensah was supposed to see his close friend sometime during the duo's overlapping stays in DFW. They had plenty of time; Osafo-Mensah is from Fort Worth and didn't need to get back to South Bend until mid-January. He'd be there long after the CFP semifinal. It still never happened. They didn't have enough time. Life is short. Jordan's was shortened. He was laid to rest after a funeral held at AT&T Stadium, of all places, five days after Osafo-Mensah's team played there. "It was all so surreal," Osafo-Mensah said. Osafo-Mensah was good to go for offseason workouts a few weeks after Jordan's service. On March 4, 2021, he shared a photo of a four-letter acronym written in big, black ink on the outside of his white, right Under Armour cleat; LLTY — Long Live Ty. The same four letters are included in his "X" (formerly Twitter) bio, ac- companied by a dove emoji. That's not lost on Takka Jordan, Ty's aunt who has been an excellent arbiter of preserving her nephew's memory. "It's so awesome," she told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "It is such a blessing to have so many guys who remember Ty fondly. I love it. And I'm very thankful for them to continue to keep Ty's name and legacy alive." LONG LIVE TY Notre Dame defensive end Nana Osafo-Mensah is impelled by the memory of his late friend, Ty Jordan Osafo-Mensah is one of the most respected play- ers on the 2023 Notre Dame roster according to head coach Marcus Freeman. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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