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About JJ Birden

Born and raised in NE Portland Oregon, JJ attended Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He earned a track & field scholarship to the University of Oregon. After running competitively his first year, he begged Oregon's then head football coach Rich Brooks for a chance to "walk on" the football team. He was determined to show coach Brooks that even at 5'10" and 150 lbs, he could play college football. JJ made the team that year and is considered the first track star to successfully walk on and excel at football for the Oregon Ducks. He continued to standout in both football and track & field during his remaining years in Oregon.

JJ was a standout track & field athlete, winning all Pac-10 and All-American honors his junior year and qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the long jump. He was recently inducted into the Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the Oregon Ducks 1985 NCAA Championship team.

JJ was drafted in the 8th round of the 1988 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. After the draft, he attended the Cleveland Browns rookie camp. Following a promising start, he suffered a knee injury, tearing his ACL during the third practice. The injury immediately ended his track career.

Since JJ was only one internship away from graduating from the University of Oregon, the Cleveland Browns invited JJ to complete his internship by working in their public relations and sales departments that Fall. JJ graduated from the University of Oregon in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Marketing.

Football

Playing in the NFL was not part of JJ's dream. He rested his hopes on making the 1988 Olympic Track & Field team. However, after the knee injury in the Cleveland Browns rookie camp, his attention moved towards the NFL. He went on to have nine successful years in the NFL playing for such teams as the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons.

JJ played with some of the best players who ever played the game, such players as Bernie Kosar, Troy Aikman, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Derrick Thomas, Marcus Allen and Joe Montana. When asked what was the highlight of his career, JJ responded, "It would be the 1993 season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Two extraordinary things happened that year; we made it to the 1993 AFC championship game, and that was the year I got to catch passes from one of the greatest Quarterbacks to ever play the game, Joe Montana." JJ retired from the NFL in 1997. See JJ’s highlight film. (YouTube)

Family

JJ married his college sweetheart Raina DeLeon in 1990. They have 3 children together, LaJourdain Jr. (23), Dante (21) and Camille (19). Due to JJ's NFL career, the Birden's have lived in various cities: Lee's Summit, MO; Suwanee, GA; and Tigard, OR. They now reside in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In 2007, JJ unexpectedly received a call from his nephew in Tulsa, OK. The following day he was on a plane to Tulsa, to check on his 5 nieces and nephews. During this visit, JJ discovered his nieces and nephews were to be placed in foster homes. After consulting his wife, they were awarded full guardianship of the children, Justin, LaShawn, Brandon, Aaliyah and Alishia. He brought them back to Oregon (where they were living at the time) to live with them.

Although some have questioned the Birden's decision to go from a family of 5 to a family of 10, JJ says, "Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to support your family. Plus, Raina and I cared for our nieces and nephews and could not see ourselves abandoning them." To this day, there is never a dull moment in their household. They are a close-knit family who strives to put family and spirituality first, which they believe has contributed to an exciting and happy family life.

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