When Jordyn Lynn Bushrod was born with a rare genetic chromosome disorder last October, her family was resolute on caring for her long-term knowing the challenges ahead.

Those born with Wolf–Hirschhorn Syndrome have delayed growth and development, intellectual disability, low muscle tone and suffer seizures, among other issues.

“It’s a life-changing syndrome that we were gearing up to deal with for pretty much the rest of our lives,” said her father Jermon Bushrod. “Your love for your children is deep and you don’t know what you’re capable of taking on until something like that happens.”

Bushrod and his wife, Jessica, didn’t have to endure the battle they were anticipating but were left to carry a heavier burden.

Jordyn died on Oct. 18, one week after her birth while Bushrod was in the middle of his 12th season as an offensive lineman in the NFL and his second stint with the New Orleans Saints.

The King George County native was inserted as a starting left tackle for a five-game stretch after an injury to starter Terron Armstead and helped the Saints go 4–1 in that period.

Bushrod earned the team’s Ed Block Courage Award for his ability to persevere during a time of distress for him and his family.

He’s currently a free agent. After the loss of his daughter, he’s reflected on his career and pondered whether to return for a 13th season.

He’s also intent on raising awareness of the disorder that claimed Jordyn’s life, beginning with his annual Visualize & Rize golf tournament and football camp, set for June 7–8.

“The event that we went through was extremely sad and it’s still extremely sad when I think about it,” Bushrod said. “But it’s opened our eyes to other families that have been dealing with this type of event and families that have kids with this syndrome.”

GOLFING FOR A CAUSE

Bushrod’s golf tournament will be held June 7 at Meadows Farm Golf Course in Locust Grove. His youth football camp is the following day at King George High School.

The golf tournament funds the Visualize & Rize foundation’s scholarship fund, which has surpassed the $600,000 mark in gifts to Fredericksburg-area college-bound seniors.

The foundation provided scholarships for high school seniors at Brooke Point, Caroline, Colonial Beach, James Monroe, King George, Orange, Riverbend and Washington & Lee this year. 

Former teammates Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Tracy Porter, Roman Harper, Fred McAfee, Dion Foxx and Michael Lewis are slated to be on hand for one or both events.

Fredericksburg-area natives Justin Anderson, George Coghill and Torrey Smith as well as music producer J. Oliver are also scheduled guests.

But Bushrod said more importantly than the opportunity for golfers to mingle with professional athletes and an entertainer is the chance to raise funds and awareness for Wolf–Hirschhorn. He said he’s willing to match donations toward the cause up to an unspecified amount.

“I’m looking forward to making a donation on behalf of Visualize & Rize to help research and just help these families in need,” Bushrod said. “So before the tournament happens, I’m going to reach out and see if we can shed a little bit more light on our situation and figure out how we can raise more awareness and research to help families that are dealing with that rare genetic disorder.”

‘I’M AT PEACE’

Bushrod appeared in 11 games last season and made six starts.

After being released by the Chicago Bears in 2016, he signed three consecutive one-year deals (two with the Miami Dolphins and one with the Saints).

He had thumb surgery in January after the Saints were defeated by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game. He visited the Carolina Panthers in March but departed without a signed contract.

Bushrod said last week he’s enjoying time with his wife and two children at his home in Florida and is no rush to make a decision on his NFL future.

He said the adversity his family faced in 2018 made the season a “roller coaster.”

“I don’t know how my mind will be in the near future, but I’m taking it slow,” Bushrod said. “If an opportunity presents itself and we talk it over and we feel the stars are aligned how we want them and it’s a good decision, we’ll go ahead and do it. It’s the same thing we’ve been doing the last four or five years … If I get that itch to go back out there and play, I’m sure somebody will call.”

Bushrod turns 35 on Aug. 19. He said he’s content with his career whether he plays again or not. He noted he’s from a small town and became the first NFL draftee from King George when the Saints selected him in the fourth round in 2007 out of Towson University, an FCS program in Maryland.

Bushrod has appeared in 145 games and made 128 starts. He said as a Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowl selection he’s surpassed even his wildest expectations.

“I’m at peace because I’ve been very fortunate in this game,” Bushrod said. “I’m from King George and I never really had aspirations to play this long, but the situation came about. We did everything in our power to stay and it feels good to be able to look back on my career so far and just be happy about it.”

A GREATER CALLING

Whenever the time comes to officially retire, it won’t be an easy decision.

But Bushrod said if 2018 was his final season he’s not going to be downtrodden “because at the end of the day it is just a game and I’ve been able to make a great living.”

He’s been known in various locker rooms as a consummate professional, teammate and leader. But he said his most important role the past several months has been as a husband and a father.

He and his family are still healing from Jordyn’s passing and have grown closer because of it. He’s connected with several families of children with the same condition on social media and is eventually seeking face-to-face interaction.

“I’ve always had a pretty good grasp on what’s really important to me, but this kind of just solidified that,” he said. “You realize you can’t take everyday life for granted. You’ve got to understand there are a lot of people out there that are dealing with a lot of problems … I know a lot of families can use a helping hand. Somewhere down the line in the near future I’m looking to make an impact for those families.”

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Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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