Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gators' Joey Ivie carries spirit of late sister

GAINESVILLE — Joey Ivie's parents told him he didn't have to shoulder the pain of a grieving family.

The Florida defensive lineman didn't have to blame himself for being 100 miles away from an accident he couldn't have prevented.

When his only sister lay dying after a car crash in April, the 20-year-old Pasco High graduate didn't have to be the one in the room when Jordan took her final breath.

"He wanted to do it, for himself and for us," said his dad, Joe. "I think he just, in his own way, felt like he needed to be there for her."

And no one could convince him otherwise.

So Joey stayed with Jordan in her hospital room on the last Sunday in April. He wrapped his massive arms around the 17-year-old former cheerleader. Then he held Jordan against his 6-foot-3, 295-pound body, until he felt his baby sister's heart stop.


Joey was nearing the end of his sophomore year at UF when his mom called. Jordan was in a car wreck, his mother said, and she might not survive. Joey didn't believe it.

"You know how moms exaggerate," Joey said.

But this time, she wasn't.

Jordan and her boyfriend left to run an errand in Dade City when his Ford Mustang veered off the road to avoid oncoming traffic. Both were wearing seat belts, but the Mustang hit four trees before stopping. Her boyfriend broke his arm, while Jordan slammed her head on the passenger's side.

By the time Joey got a ride home from Gainesville, Jordan had been airlifted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa for emergency brain surgery. She never recovered.

Two days later, on April 26, Joey stayed with her until the very end.

"There's no feeling — there's no expression besides sadness," Joey said. "Just emptiness."

The whole family took the loss hard, and Joey did so in his own way.

As the oldest of five siblings, Joey always had been less of a friend and more of a protector, his dad said. Now, in the hardest moments of their lives, there was nothing he could do.

"In a lot of ways he took it really hard because he was not at home when all this happened," his father said. "He took on some responsibility that he really didn't need to."

But Jordan had always done things she didn't need to, either.

She loaded her schedule with online classes so she could move up a grade and graduate high school with her brother Andrew, who was one year older. She planned to start studying at community college before transferring to UF, in time for Joey's senior year. For years she cheered for Joey and Andrew at their Pasco High football games and wrestling matches.

"She even went to their weightlifting meets," their dad said, "and nobody goes to those."

On the day she died, more than 100 people flocked to Pasco's football stadium for an impromptu vigil. They spelled her name in tiny candles on the track where she used to cheer and wore her favorite color, pink.

For the funeral four days later, they had to borrow Pasco Middle School's auditorium, so all of the mourners could fit.

Joey remembers the man who released the doves at the service saying the birds never fly more than three laps together. Joey counted 10.

"That kind of made me smile," Joey said. "There's something special about that girl."


In the days after Jordan's death, Joey became a protector again, shouldering some of his family's toughest responsibilities.

He spoke at her funeral, addressing a crowd of hundreds. When Jordan's name was called at Pasco High's graduation a month later, Joey walked across the stage to accept her diploma.

"For a big, scary defensive lineman," his dad, said, "he's got a pretty big heart."

It took a few months before that big heart began to heal, so he countered the grief with his three permanent foundations: faith, family and football.

He ran. He prayed. He worked out. He prepared himself for a potential breakout junior season in the defensive line rotation and, perhaps, a shot at a pro career.

"Jordan Ivie is my Motivation," Joey's Twitter bio reads. "God keeps me going."

Just like the rest of his family, Joey said he still has his ups and downs.

Saturday figures to have some of both, when his Gators open the season against New Mexico State. Jordan was supposed to be in the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, close enough to the field to give her big brother a high five.

If Joey gets emotional when he looks into the crowd above, he will have someone beside him to help him through it.

His younger brother Andrew is a freshman at UF, after signing with the Gators in February. He's a defensive lineman, just like Joey, who followed the same path from Dade City to Gainesville.

So when Joey runs out of the tunnel, into a noisy, buzzing stadium missing one special girl's cheers, he won't have to do it alone.

"It's real neat to play at the same school as your brother — your blood brother," Joey said. "There's nothing stronger than family."

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Gators' Joey Ivie carries spirit of late sister 08/28/15 [Last modified: Saturday, August 29, 2015 8:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  2. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener


    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    The University of South Florida Bulls take a moment on the field just prior to their game against Tulane in the American Athletic Conference Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Clearwater.
  3. NFL rewards Tampa Bay's track record, preparation with another Super Bowl


    Tampa Bay got lucky on Tuesday.

    We are getting a Super Bowl. We are getting a Super Bowl that we weren't supposed to get. We're getting a Super Bowl that we once were told we wouldn't get.

    Then came good luck.

     Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer (left) and son Edward Glazer celebrate the Bucs win and their upcoming trip to San Diego and the Super Bowl.  

[Bill Serne | Times]
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Erasmo Ramirez #30 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Wilson Ramos feeling good and confident, eyeing late June return to Rays


    Sitting on the bench in the Rays dugout in his full catcher's gear, Wilson Ramos talked excitedly Tuesday about the progress in his recovery from right knee surgery and the potential to be back in the major leagues by this time next month.

    "I feel like a player right now,'' Ramos said.

    Wilson Ramos is aiming to be back with the Rays by this time next month.