AFTER HE ran for 232 yards in a 24--21 upset of Daleville on Oct. 19, Alabama Christian High fullback Jordan Creel was carried off the field by his teammates—not because of his career-best performance but because of the grace and poise he had shown under such trying circumstances. The day before, Jordan's 43-year-old mother, Karen, was killed when a fire engulfed the family's house outside Montgomery. Jordan, the only other person home when the smoke alarms went off at 3 a.m., could hear his mother's cries for help but was unable to reach her. Though still overwhelmed by what had happened, he decided he wanted to honor his mother on the field. "I know Jordan played his tail off for his mama," says his coach, Gregg Baker. "And I know my guys played their tails off for Jordan."
The Eagles, who wore black tape with the initials K.C. on their helmets, applauded the 16-year-old as he boarded the bus to the game and listened as he gave a heartfelt locker room speech before the game. "He's been at practice every day this week," says Baker. "He's inspiring to watch." Jordan has some inspiration of his own: He's saved the last voice mail he received from his mother, so anytime he wants, he can hear the happy voice that cheered him on. "She was always the loudest one in the stands," says Jordan.