RIO RANCHO, N.M. — It wasn’t the kind of news a man likes to hear on his 57th or any birthday: A young man he helped raise had taken his own life.
But that’s how Wednesday began for Arlan Swihart, when he received a text from his son Blake, a catcher for the Boston Red Sox at spring training in Florida, about Blake’s “brother from a different mother,” Romell Jordan.
Jordan’s body had been found during a welfare check at a motel room in Hobbs, where he had been working.
Arlan and his wife, Carla, had taken Romell in during his high school years; he graduated from Cleveland High School in May 2013. Their own son had graduated in May 2011.
Arlan Swihart posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, noting his sorrow about Jordan, who “graduated (from UNM) last year and started a promising career. Throughout the years, he continued to be a constant in our lives. He was at Blake’s wedding. He was at all of our Christmas celebrations. He was with us at the (2018) World Series … I am so heartbroken! We are all so heartbroken! I can’t imagine the pain he was feeling. I don’t understand.”
It seemed nobody understood or even had an inkling of what Jordan was feeling at the time.
“Devastating. Brutal,” began CHS football coach Heath Ridenour. “I was as close to Romell as I have been with any player I have ever coached. … I’m heartbroken; we all are. Suicide is real; depression is real.
“(I had) no indication he was struggling — I’m a bit lost right now,” Ridenour added. “(I am) searching for answers. All I know is that he is gone and it hurts.”
“I don’t know anything about it,” former CHS football coach Kirk Potter said via telephone from his home in Texas, remembering the last time he’d seen his star running back — who scored two touchdowns in the “Perfect Storm” season of 2011 — helping him make that move east in 2012.
“Heath texted me this morning and told me about it,” Potter said. “It’s obviously a shock and just so wasteful of a good person. It just drives me crazy when something like this happens. It’s so sad.”
Jordan, 23 at the time of his death, will be hard to forget, Potter said.
“His good natured-ness” won’t be forgotten, Potter said. “It seems like Romell was always happy-go-lucky. He was a hard worker, fun to be around, and a good teammate — always able to come through and do his part. He was never a worry — a tremendous and a good guy. … This is frustrating and bewildering; disheartening.”
Also stunned and saddened to hear the news, Rio Rancho High School football coach David Howes said, “The community of Rio Rancho lost a good young man that made an impact on our entire community. He was an extremely tough competitor, respectful, and moved on to play for the Lobos.
“I can remember trying to game-plan ways to stop him but we just had to find ways to try and contain him. In our district championship in 2012, he was injured but their coaches dressed up a kid to wear his uniform and warm up before the game — we all stood intensely staring at this kid (breaking him down) to figure out if it was Romell or not,” Howes recalled. “We were all a bit anxious when we thought he might play. I can tell you there was a sigh of relief when he was not dressed out and standing with the team for Senior Night. I developed a tremendous respect for his game over the years and he will truly be missed.”
“Rio Rancho High School sends our prayers and support for his family, Cleveland Storm football family and community.”
“The news of Romell Jordan’s sudden passing is heartbreaking,” said UNM football coach Bob Davie. “Romell was one of our first recruits from Cleveland High School, and he was a great young man. Romell went through many hardships, from a devastating knee injury to his mother’s passing, while with our team. He was a great teammate and friend, and his successful career at UNM was a huge source of pride for him, his family and this community.”
In addition to his exploits on the gridiron, in his junior year, helping CHS win the 5A boys track & field championship, Jordan was the 5A high-point man, amassing 14 points with his sprint prowess in winning the 100, finishing second in the 200 and running the first leg on two victorious relay teams. (He missed the Storm’s track & field repeat in 2013 due to injury.)
“Romell was always a pleasure to be around; he had a great personality and a smile to go along with it,” said Rio Rancho Public Schools Athletic Director Larry Chavez, who’d been the AD at CHS during Jordan’s years there.
“He was one of the best athletes to come out of Cleveland High School. … It’s a very sad day for CHS and the community of Rio Rancho.”
A memorial service is slated for Saturday (March 2) at 3:30 in the Cleveland High Concert Hall.