By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE –– They grew up in the same house in the Atlanta area and played one season of high school football together, each lining up at cornerback in the secondary. Then Charles Mack III enrolled at the University of Richmond, leaving his brother at home with their parents, Charles II and Audria.
Three years later, in the summer of 2016, Jordan Mack joined Charles III in the Commonwealth, enrolling at the University of Virginia. He chose UVA over such schools as Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
“With his brother being an hour away, that made the decision easier,” Charles II said.
They knocked heads at times growing up, as brothers often do. As college players, they clashed only once: in Jordan’s first game as a Cavalier. On Sept. 3, 2016, Richmond won 37-20 at Scott Stadium, spoiling Bronco Mendenhall’s debut as UVA’s head coach.
Charles III, a senior defensive back, celebrated that stunning victory with his fellow Spiders, but he’s now a Wahoo. In June, he joined Mendenhall’s staff as a regional recruiting scout, which means the brothers again see each other regularly.
“It’s pretty cool to have family that close and someone I can go and talk to after a rough day, just someone I can talk to about anything,” Jordan said. “It’s a blessing.”
His brother was his role model when they were boys, Jordan said. “He still is. Everything he does, I’m just trying emulate him, and everything I see him do, I’m just trying to do better.”
Charles III’s recruiting territory includes North Carolina, South Carolina and part of Georgia. “He’s kind of a rising star in the either personnel or coaching profession, whichever direction he takes,” Mendenhall said.
After graduating from UR in 2017, Charles III worked as an assistant director of facilities and events in his alma mater’s athletic department. He then spent 11 months at the University of Georgia as an event management assistant in athletics before coming to UVA.
“It’s been very exciting for us as parents to have them together again,” Charles II said.
The brothers’ personalities could not be much more different. Charles III is the extrovert and Jordan the introvert.
“Everyone says I’m like my mom,” Charles III said, “and then J-Mack is like my dad.”
Their father agreed. “Because Charles is so outgoing, he’s always been the spokesman for Jordan, from Day One.”
At their core, though, the brothers are much alike. “They’re both very competitive and hard-working,” Charles II said.
Mendenhall said the brothers share a “focus on education, intelligence, big-picture thinking, but also just kindness and decency and humanity. And they’re an amazing family, the Mack family.”
Jordan, who stands 6-2, is a chiseled 230-pounder who may well be bound for the NFL. He came to Virginia as a safety, but changed positions during his first training camp and started nine games at outside linebacker as a true freshman.
In 2017, he moved to inside linebacker in the Cavaliers’ 3-4 scheme. He’ll leave the program as a four-year starter who sets the standard for his teammates in the weight room and off the field.
— Virginia Football (@UVAFootball) July 26, 2019
“Coach Mendenhall runs a great program that develops young boys into men, and I think J-Mack is a testament to that,” Charles III said.
Jordan isn’t a vocal leader, but he’s one of the Cavaliers’ captains, along with cornerback Bryce Hall and quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Mendenhall has long praised Jordan’s work ethic, positive attitude and commitment to the program, and last week brought yet another reason for him to compliment No. 4.
At the end of practice on Oct. 30, Mendenhall informed his team that Jordan, a Youth & Social Innovation major in the Curry School of Education and Human Development, had been named one of 12 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy. That award is presented annually to the top scholar-athlete in college football.
“I didn’t even know his grades were that good,” Charles III said, smiling.
As a finalist, Jordan will receive an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. If he wins the Campbell Trophy, as another linebacker from UVA, Micah Kiser, did in 2017, the scholarship will increase to $25,000.
Upon hearing of his son’s honor, Charles II said, “I was in awe, and I still am, because of all the hard work that he’s put into it. It just left me speechless, as well as his mother.”
The Campbell Trophy represents “the perfect package of AND that Coach Mendenhall preaches about every single day: a great student and a great athlete,” Jordan said. “It’s just something that’s been infused in me since I was growing up, from my parents. It’s just always been a part of me. To see your hard work start to pay off, it really means a lot.”
The Mack brothers attended Wesleyan, a private school about 20 miles north of Atlanta. It’s a small school known more for its academics than its athletics, and that aligned with the family’s values.
“If you didn’t have the grades, you couldn’t play football,” Charles III recalled. “So if you came home with Fs and Cs on your report card, you were putting yourself at risk of not playing in the game that week. And it’s been that way since we were 6 or 7 years old [playing youth football].”
His sons have “always used sports as a platform for their academics,” Charles II said.
Jordan is also active in the community. He’s helping with the Kindness Café + Play, a new coffee shop in Charlottesville that will employ people with cognitive disabilities. It’s a venture led by Katie Tracy Kishore, who played soccer and basketball at UVA.
“Just to see something like that coming to Charlottesville means a lot,” Jordan said, “because it’s a great organization that can help a lot of people and just make our world a better place.”
His college career is winding down. Virginia has three regular-season games left, starting Saturday against Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers (6-3 overall, 4-2 ACC), who lead the Coastal Division, host the Yellow Jackets (2-6, 1-4) at 12:30 p.m.
Jordan and his classmates will be recognized before UVA’s regular-season finale, Nov. 29 against Virginia Tech.
“It hasn’t really kicked in, but it’s starting to,” Jordan said. “The years have definitely flown by. I can still remember when my parents were dropping me off here on my first day.”
Charles II, who also grew up in the Atlanta area, seriously considered UVA before choosing Georgia Tech. He played fullback for the Jackets in the 1980s, but he won’t be rooting for Georgia Tech from his seat in the Scott Stadium stands Saturday.
“Absolutely not,” Charles II said, laughing. “That’s my alma mater, but I have to support my guys. I’m UVA, all in.”
Jordan was penalized for targeting against Louisville on Oct. 26 –– a call with which Mendenhall disagreed –– and had to sit out the first half of UVA’s game at North Carolina last weekend. The Cavaliers came away with a 38-31 victory, and Mendenhall says Mack played a pivotal role at Kenan Stadium.
When the Hoos entered the locker room at halftime, “Jordan was there to welcome every player,” Mendenhall said, “and it was almost as if we had just won the game already when they realized that he was back and would be able to contribute.”
Mack’s presence pumped up his teammates, defensive lineman Mandy Alonso said, “just seeing him there and seeing him in his pads getting ready to go. It definitely gave the defense a little boost, just knowing we were going to have him back out there.”