Featured – Jordan’s Story

While Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill was tackling opponents as a Penn State freshman, his dad was getting tackled by diabetes at home in Steelton, Pennsylvania. Read his story to learn what led him to start the Jordan Hill Foundation to raise awareness for diabetes prevention, advanced kidney disease research, and focus on programs to help keep children active socially, intellectually and physically.

While Seattle Seahawk Jordan Hill was tackling opponents as a Penn State freshman, his dad, Larry, was getting tackled by diabetes at home in Steelton, Pennsylvania.

Hill, 25, said his father was diagnosed with diabetes — a condition where the body doesn’t make, use or store insulin properly — on the day Jordan was born, but didn’t struggle with the disease until Jordan was nearly an adult himself.

“When I was little, my dad was big and strong, a hard worker,” said the soft-spoken defensive tackle, who recently founded the Jordan Hill Foundation to focus on diabetes awareness, kidney disease research and youth programs. “He was in the hospital a long time my senior year of high school and that’s when his health decline really started.”

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What Jordan didn’t know at the time was that the day after he enrolled at Penn State in 2009, his dad suffered his first diabetes-related stroke and was forced to quit working.

“My mom and sister didn’t tell me,” said Jordan, a 2009 Steelton-Highspire graduate. “They knew I would come home, not go to school and get a job to help out. I could see my dad was not always himself when he came to games to see me play, but I didn’t know.”

Reality intervened during a family tailgate after the Nittany Lions’ annual spring game that school year. Jordan caught his dad as he tripped and fell. Except, he didn’t trip; he had suffered another stroke.

 

“That’s when my mom told me that’s what’s been going on,” he said. “I understood why they didn’t want me to stop doing what I wanted to do but at the same time, being the person I am, I want to help out and fix everything. I was upset I couldn’t prevent it. But they did what they needed to do.”

Complications from diabetes continued to ravage Larry and the family couldn’t afford to stay in their house as they struggled with medical bills. In Jordan’s senior year, Larry suffered another stroke, from which he is still recovering and improving through rehab at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Larry then developed kidney difficulties and was forced to begin dialysis during Jordan’s rookie season in the NFL.

“People don’t understand when someone has an illness it doesn’t just directly affect that person; it affects everyone they love and care about,” Jordan said.

Knowing that the impending dialysis would limit Larry’s travel, Jordan brought his dad to Seattle for a week during that first NFL season.

“When it was time to leave, on Friday, he said he wasn’t ready to go. Basically, every Friday I’d say, ‘Are you ready?’ And he’d tell me no,” Jordan laughed. “He was here for two months.”

“We were always close but this brought us closer, just me and my dad living in Seattle on the other side of the country from everyone,” Jordan said. “It was a good bonding experience. I will always cherish that for the rest of my life.”

The entire journey has led Jordan to form his foundation to raise awareness for diabetes prevention, advanced kidney disease research and focus on programs to help keep children active socially, intellectually and physically.

“I get that from my mom — always the person where if someone was in need she would help them,” he said. “People helped me and my family out in times of need and I want to be there to help families that need it.”

As Jordan studies where to best spend the donated money for research, he is organizing the inaugural Jordan Hill Foundation Golf Tournament on May 14 at Penn State’s Blue Course in State College. Registration, which covers a day of golf, lunch and prizes, closes May 9.

Jordan said his efforts are “more than just a name on a foundation.”

“This is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “This foundation is a lifestyle for me that will help change others’ lives.”