Michael Jordan's making a name for himself

Michael Jordan

CHARLOTTE — Yes, he's heard your jokes. And it even earned him a tongue-lashing from someone who thought he was the one trying to prank call a busy pizza place.

But at the moment, Panthers guard Michael Jordan is happy just being Michael, the guy who appears to be headed into the starting lineup.

Having the same name as the basketball legend has complicated his life at times, and he admitted that he's not ever going to be confused on the court.

"I'm actually pretty terrible at basketball," Jordan said. "You can ask the guys in the locker room; they already know that. I've been terrible since I was a kid. I have to look at the ball when I dribble."

But as a football player, he's not bad. He was a three-year starter at Ohio State who earned All-American honors from SI.com and CBS Sports, and was a fourth-round pick of the Bengals.

None of that, however, was getting him fed when he called a Columbus, Ohio pizza restaurant on Super Bowl Sunday during his freshman year.

After placing an order online for him and some friends, using his own name (because that's what one does), he called back to check on the status of his order after some time passed.

"And he starts cussing me out," Jordan said with a laugh. "He said 'This is Super Bowl Sunday; you can't be playing around with fake names like that.'

"Then I went in and showed him my ID, and I got free pizza for like a week."

That's not a bad payback for a college student, and he's gotten used to the treatment over the years. While he generally gets remarks about the basketball legend and owner of the Charlotte Hornets, he said Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson called him Michael B. Jordan recently, referencing the actor from Black Panther and Creed.

Michael B. Jordan and Michael Jordan

While there are people who refer to him as MJ, and occasionally Big Mike or Big Nasty (when you're 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, that seems right), he's perfectly content to go low-key.

"Michael is fine," he said.

Of course, the way he played last week, they might want to circle back to one of them.

While Jordan had some missteps in pass protection after subbing in for Dennis Daley, he earned higher marks as a run-blocker. Considering this week's clearly stated mission to run more, the fact that Panthers head coach Matt Rhule called him "a tone-setter in the run game" seemed to be perfect timing.

Offensive coordinator Joe Brady said Thursday he was impressed with how quickly Jordan picked up the offense, after he was claimed off waivers from the Bengals at final cuts. But that wasn't all that made him stand out.

Michael Jordan

"Ever since we got him here, for a guy to come here right after training camp, who wasn't a part of it, how fast he was able to grasp the offense, pick up the offense, understand the techniques, and also just the way he plays," Brady began. "He plays angry. You see that demeanor with him. He wants to finish his blocks.

"You'll take an ME (mental error) of a guy who's playing hard. And even since Day 1 when he had no clue what he was doing, he was going 100 miles an hour. That's what you want to see. So I was pleased to see him going in there and not blinking, and being able to execute this past Sunday."

For Jordan, it hasn't been a linear path, as it took getting cut by his original team, claimed here, cut again, signed to the practice squad before getting back to the active roster. But he shrugged at that, saying it reinforced the mentality that his coaches here want him to have.

"By being in the moment," he said when asked how he handled the emotional swings of all those transactions. "When you're inside the moment or being present, it allows you to handle whatever happens in your life, whatever comes your way. Not saying you don't feel bad or feel terrible, but it definitely allows you to focus on what you need to do at the current time. So that's all I did was stay in the moment, and pray to God, and I got a chance on Sunday."

While his coaches might have liked his first impression, he said he wasn't taking anything for granted.

"My focus is to keep getting better each and every week and restart every week," Jordan said. "I want to come in the same guy. Whatever happened last week, whether it was a great impression or not, I'm going to go out there and do whatever I can for my teammates."

And if it ever comes up that he gets to meet his namesake in Charlotte, that would be great too. Chances are, they could probably get a pizza delivered in this town.

View photos from Thursday's practice as the Panthers prepare to take on the Giants this weekend.

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