Jason Jones to anchor middle of Cobras’ defensive line
Jason Jones had a choice to make. For the first time in his life, he was struggling with academics, and a series of events had endangered his budding football career.
Hurricane Katrina devastated southeastern Louisiana just two weeks after the 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle stepped on the campus at Nicholls State University in Thibodeaux, La.
Jones' parents, who live 15 minutes outside of downtown New Orleans in Reserve, lost power for two weeks following the 2005 event, but they were spared from the flood waters. He went to stay with his brother, who was finishing up at Southern University in Baton Rouge, until the hurricane was over.
Then students from other universities started to show up at Nicholls State, and the comforts of home were just a little more than a half-hour away.
Jones found it difficult to be successful with all the distractions. He took responsibility for part of it, too.
"When I found out I didn't have to go to class, that was a problem," said Jones, who signed with the Seattle-Tacoma Cobras this week. "I really thought I could go in there, hear something one time, study it and pass.
"I missed a lot of class."
It hadn't been a problem in high school. Jones was an honor student at East St. John, where he played with onetime LSU standout quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, a dual threat considered one of the top recruits in the country.
But Jones' test scores weren't good enough for him to suit up on game day, and his struggles compounded when one of his coaches at Nicholls State committed suicide.
It was time for a change.
Jones enrolled in summer school at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, and he concentrated on his grades.
"I had a reality check," he said. "That was the move that started my football and academic career right there."
Today, the run-stuffer lives in Pocatello, Idaho, where he played for the Idaho State Bengals for two seasons. He graduated in May 2010 with a degree in sport management.
But 2006 was a tough summer. And it was a turning point, too.
Jones mapped out a plan to enroll that fall at a junior college in Kansas, where he hoped he could spend two years impressing four-year universities for a shot at a scholarship.
When he bumped into an old friend at a gas station one night, he found out his buddy had been playing football at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., and he planned to transfer to Troy State, an NCAA Division I school in Troy, Ala.
"I was congratulating him, and he started to tell me about Chabot," Jones said. "He said, 'Give me your film, I can give it to the head coach.' "
Jones sent video highlights to his friend on a Saturday night. By Monday, he received a phone call that changed his life. And he didn't have to convince his coaches that his one-year stint at Nicholls State was an aberration.
"With the JC system, you don't really have to sell it too much," he said. "They see that every day. It's all good athletes there.
"I was a bounce-back. Some people use it to their advantage, some people don't."
Jones, 19 at the time, aced his summer classes and convinced his parents he had a good opportunity in the Bay Area. He played for the Gladiators in 2006-07, and his defensive line coach during his second season was four-time NFL Pro Bowl selection Chester McGlockton.
"Me and him were real tight," Jones said. "It was his first year coaching, and I was one of his first players he ever coached."
McGlockton was an assistant at Stanford in 2011 when he died of a heart attack at 42. Jones said he brought several former NFL players in to talk to players at Chabot, including Larry Allen and Rod Woodson.
Jones was a first-team, all-Golden Gate Conference selection in 2007 and a scholar-athlete at Chabot. Montana State, Portland State and Utah State were all interested in him, but when Jones took his official visit to Idaho State, he fell in love with the environment.
"I really liked it," he said. "It was something I'd never seen with mountains and everything."
It helped that the Bengals had a scholarship available, because Jones graduated from Chabot in December 2007 and wanted to enroll in January.
Jones played with new Cobras teammates Ken Cornist and Jarrid Nash when all three were at Idaho State. And it was Nash's dad who got him connected with the PDFL after Jones spent the 2011 season with the Wenatchee Valley Venom of the Indoor Football League.
While he was in Pocatello, his defensive line coach was Joe Cullen, who spent the past three seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and is currently on the Cleveland Browns' staff.
Jones is particularly proud and thankful for the support of his parents, who have been married for 30 years. He joked that his dad, who will be 77 this year, "played in the leather cap era" as a fullback for Southern University.
"My dad came to every football practice and every game, and I started playing football at 7," Jones said. "To this day, if I need something, he'll help me out. It's an inspiration and a blessing to have my dad in my life. He's definitely my hero."
When football was over at Idaho State in 2009, Jones held jobs at Walmart and then DirecTV. He hired an agency and uploaded film to a website in an attempt to play in Europe. And he had a deal with an indoor football team that didn't work out because the league pushed its season off.
But when football came calling, Jones stopped everything.
"I hustle," he said of his strengths. "Whether I get knocked down, I
get back up. These guys get paid to try, too. I do dominate, I have my moments, but I hustle when I get knocked down."
He also understands the game.
"After being coached my Chester McGlockton, you have no choice but to have a great knowledge of the game," he said.
By Brian McLean