Jump to content

TJ's thoughts have turned to home

Kentucky Jet

Recommended Posts


Published: August 10, 2007

Running back Thomas Jones is in a new place now, preparing for his first big test with the Jets. But his thoughts this week have turned to home.

Jones grew up in Big Stone Gap, Va., a coal-mining town where his parents and grandparents ventured dangerously deep into the earth to make a living. Those memories have weighed on him in recent days because of the situation in Huntington, Utah, where six miners have been trapped.

“I’ll never forget what it’s like to live in a place like that,” Jones said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Growing up, seeing my parents work in coal mines, made me a tougher person on the football field.”

He recalled some nightmarish episodes from his childhood, including when school administrators called out names over the intercom to summon classmates to the principal’s office.

“Everybody figured something happened to their parents — someone had gotten killed, or a rock had fallen on someone,” Jones said. “A lot of people had black lung.”

Life has become a lot easier for Jones’s family since 2000, when the Arizona Cardinals selected him with the seventh overall pick. In 2004, Dallas drafted his brother Julius, who last season rushed for more than 1,000 yards with the Cowboys.

After being drafted, Thomas Jones bought a new house for his mother, Betty, who had worked a midnight-to-8 a.m. shift to raise him and his six siblings: Gwen, Beatrice, Julius, Knetris, Knetta and Katrice.

Although he turns 29 later this month, Jones said, he still feels like a 22-year-old because he has largely shared running-back duties with others in his professional career. Last season, he had 1,210 yards rushing for the Chicago Bears while sharing the stage uneasily with Cedric Benson.

The Jets acquired Jones from the Bears five months ago, and many fans will be watching him closely tonight in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. To prepare for his new challenge, he has been lifting weights, drinking protein shakes and studying the Jets’ playbook.

At training camp Wednesday in Hempstead, N.Y., Coach Eric Mangini said the Jets sought Jones because of his attitude as much as his versatility.

“Our research always starts with who the person is,” Mangini said. He described the reports on Jones this way: “Good character, good leadership, toughness. A guy you want to have in the locker room.”

Mangini said it would take time to determine how much Jones would share the job with players like Leon Washington, who is listed second on the team’s unofficial depth chart.

“That will evolve,” Mangini said. “There are some weeks when Leon’s going to get more carries, but that will fluctuate week in and week out. There will be different packages that the guys will be in. That’s what you want to have, the flexibility to adjust to whatever you’re seeing.”

Jones resisted speaking specifically about what role he expected to play against the Falcons, a team confronted by the distraction of quarterback Michael Vick’s indictment on federal dogfighting charges. The Jets, unlike their opponent, seem to have mostly on-the-field concerns.

Asked what his contribution to the offense would be, Jones said: “I can’t predict what’s going to happen, and I wouldn’t even try. This offense, we catch the ball and we run the ball.”

Mangini said quarterback Chad Pennington would have the option to sometimes call his own plays this season. One sign that Pennington was happy in his leadership role came Wednesday morning during the first of two practices. Pennington let out a hoot and slid on his stomach in the mud patches created by the heavy morning rain.

“I tried to give us a spark,” Pennington said. “I don’t know if it worked or not, but it sure made me wet and muddy and miserable, I know that.”

As for Jones, Pennington seems impressed with what he has seen.

“He’s definitely serious on the football field,” Pennington said. “So far, he’s done an excellent job of working hard and trying to lead by example. I just expect him to go out there and play hard and do everything he can to help us, whether it’s a running game or passing game.”

Next Article in Sports (18 of 25) »

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...