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Serving and giving: Payton Jordahl

Payton Jordahl is a 2014 graduate of Perham high school. He has been the starting long snapper for the Gopher football team since 2015. University of Minnesota Athletics

Payton Jordahl didn’t want to be nervous, but he was. His heart was racing as he paced around the block multiple times.

He had a class project on his mind. It had been weighing on him for days. The description was simple: have a new spiritual experience. Jordahl said that was not uncommon for his youth studies major classes.

“This is what we want you to talk about, go find your own way to learn it,” Jordahl explained of the class structure. “I sat and struggled with it for hours. It was always on the back of my mind.”

With 24 hours left until his project was due Jordahl was still unsure about the direction he was going take.

“I thought about listening to a new genre of music but I thought that was kind of cheesy,” Jordahl said. “That wouldn’t feel pure.”

So Jordahl strolled around campus with still no ideas until he came to that block. The junior long snapper knew what he wanted to do but now needed the courage to do it.

“I saw this man sitting outside of a business. I walked past him, turned around and looked at him. I started thinking about going back and talking to him,” Jordahl explained.

After walking past a few times, Jordahl finally went up and sat down next to the man.

“I tried having an introductory conversation with him which was really awkward at first,” Jordahl said.

The man was suspicious of Jordahl who was wearing a nice shirt, jeans and a backpack.

“He actually asked me if I was a cop,” Jordahl said. “He was testing me for sure. I probably did look like an undercover cop. I think his experiences in life have taught him to be very cautious of the people he is around.”

Jordahl passed the test and offered to buy the man lunch. The Gopher wanted to learn more about his new acquaintance. On the way into lunch the man invited a friend to come as well.

“She is in her mid-thirties. She spoke about her life experiences much more than he did,” Jordahl said. “She had some children and lost them. She had an abusive husband. She has two college degrees.”

After the woman opened up Jordahl noticed the man start to soften up. The lunch was the start of a new friendship. Since they met at the beginning of October, Jordahl tries to walk by the man’s normal spot from time to time. It is usually a quick conversation in passing. The once quiet and guarded man now knows Jordahl by name and even jokes around with him.

“There was one day I made a little plate of food up at my house and I brought it by,” Jordahl said. “Another day I brought him a couple sandwiches and a little Powerade.

Jordahl grew up in the small town of Perham, Minn. While there he said he thought he knew everything but has continued to learn through his youth studies major and the football culture.

“The whole major of youth studies has challenged me,” Jordahl said. “Norries Wilson (Director of Player Development) told our team, ‘once you think you know everything is when you start learning.’”

Even before taking the spirituality class, Jordahl has often thought about introducing himself to a stranger in need. He often thinks about people’s stories when riding the campus connector to the St. Paul campus.

“Each person you drive by has their own individual and unique story full of struggles, successes, goals and aspirations that they carry with them,” Jordahl said.

Knowing that made it easy for Jordahl to befriend the man.

“He is a person and I’m a person. There are a few things that make us different. Our age, race, backgrounds, financial status, social status but the biggest thing is we are both human,” Jordahl said. “That is what I am trying to preach to myself when I go through each day. This wasn’t a Division I privileged white man talking to a homeless African American man. It was a human being talking to a human being.”