Rebel great continues playing career in Germany
Excitement continues to build in Oxford as the Rebels wrap up their first full week of fall practice. Unfortunately, one notable face will be missing from the 2013 lineup, as Jason Jones, the 2012 Chucky Mullins Award winner, is now playing professional football in Germany for the Hamburg Blue Devils.
Even with a stable of incredibly talented players, it will not be easy for the Rebels to fill Jones’ shoes. The defensive end compiled 27 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 7.5 tackles for a loss last year, but he also provided immeasurable leadership and passion both on and off the field.
In a recent interview with HottyToddy.com Jones, who is a December, 2012 Psychology graduate, says life in Hamburg is great. He is enjoying the beautiful scenery and the friendliness of the people, while playing the game he loves so dearly. He spoke of his career at Ole Miss, what motivates him, and what he sees for the future of the Ole Miss football program.
A stellar student-athlete with a desire to give back
While at Ole Miss, Jones was truly an exemplary student-athlete. He successfully balanced football and school—he was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll—and also participated in community service activities, such as “Reading with the Rebels,” Special Olympics, and the National Student-Athlete Community Service project.
Though it was difficult to juggle so many activities, Jones made it a priority.
“I was able do these things and keep up with football and school because of the passion I had to give kids something I never possessed growing up,” Jones said. “By no means was it easy, but my desire to give back to the community meant a lot to me because I didn’t have the opportunity to meet these types of athletes growing up.”
He described what drives his desire to help youth.
“As athletes we’re sometimes viewed as ‘heroes’ to many kids in the community, as well as back in our hometowns, and I believe the positivity we share with them will live in their hearts for the rest of their lives.”
“Your destination has more meaning when adversity along the way is defeated.”
– Jason Jones
The Rebel football team is currently battling through a slew of injuries, and Jason’s own situation gives him unique insight into what it takes to persevere in such times. After redshirting in 2008, Jones entered the 2009 season with high hopes—only to tear his ACL at the beginning of the season.
He reflected on what kept him motivated throughout months of rehab.
“During my knee injury in 2009, there were many times I was about to let the sport of football completely die, and just move on with my life,” he said. “But the love, passion, desire and, most of all, my faith, are what kept me motivated. I truly believe God has a plan for my life that involves this sport, and that’s why I’m still striving to make a dream come true.”
When told of wide receiver Vince Sanders’ injury, Jason had a message for the talented Rebel. “I want him to know this is not the end, but just the beginning,” he said. “Injuries can make you a man, or break you as a man—but it’s totally up to you! I know Vince is a strong guy and will do whatever it takes to be back on the field as soon as possible. He is a hard working young man, a great player, and an even better person—and I know this will not defeat Vince.”
Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner
Jason’s own drive to “never quit” led him to be named the recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The award honors the late Rebel Chucky Mullins, whose Ole Miss career came to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away on May 6, 1991.
Jones explained the significance of receiving the award and wearing Chucky’s No. 38 jersey. “It made me realize that I meant a lot to my coaches, teammates, fans, the Rebel family and the Ole Miss community as a whole,” he said. “It also showed me I represented not only my own name, but also a never-ending legacy at the University of Mississippi. The Chucky Mullins Award was definitely a blessing and a goal I set out to accomplish as a freshman, and I am still thankful to this day that I was chosen to represent such a tradition.”
The passion and faith of a role model
One does not need to visit long with Jones to realize he is filled with passion for both his university and the game of football. Nowhere is this more evident than in a video produced by Ole Miss Sports, featuring Jason proudly exclaiming: “I AM an Ole Miss Rebel!”
When asked what incited his obvious emotion, and what he was thinking when he made the video, Jones explained: “The passion was prompted by all the time, work, blood, sweat and tears you put into your University. There is a certain level of humility that one should carry deep within his heart for his school, and that video clip shows a little of mine. The saying sort of blew up quickly with our fan base, and I became ‘Mr. I Am an Ole Miss Rebel’ to everyone.”
Though Jones is playing overseas in Germany, he remains a positive role model just as he was at Ole Miss. The head coach of Jones’ Hamburg team recently said, “Jason is an incredible asset to our guys and also an even greater mentor to the young players.”
When asked who his role model was, Jones replied it was his late father.
“Growing up I always looked up to my father,” Jones said. “He has been deceased for 7 years now, but he was my hero–someone who always taught me to do the right thing and love people no matter what they did. My father was a great man, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that he raised me to be an even better man then he was!”
It is clear he listened to his father’s words and took them to heart. Jones positively impacts those around him no matter where he travels, and this stems from his personal philosophy on maintaining the right mindset.
“A positive attitude and great character follow a person no matter where he goes or where he ends up,” he explains. As a leader your focus is not always on yourself, but also on your teammates and the people around you. I live by a motto that states ‘Wherever you go, leave a plus sign,’ which means a positive in mathematical terms. To top it all off, I enjoy helping people if I can be of any service.”
Jason is also quick to stress the importance of his deep, personal faith in God and what that means in his life.
“I really believe that I’ve been blessed with a gift of great faith,” he said. “Honestly, without faith there is absolutely no reason to work hard at something if you don’t believe in it. That is how I have always carried myself.”
Jason looks at the 2013 Rebels
Oftentimes it is tough to transition to a new staff and system, but last year’s Rebels were able to improve from a 2-10 record in 2011, to 7-6 one year later under new Head Coach Hugh Freeze. Jason explained how the team was able to make such an incredible turnaround.
“My teammates and I were hungry and searching for something better than what we had in the 2010 and 2011 seasons,” he said. “We wanted to win, but not only did we want to win, we were also ready and willing to put in the time and hard work necessary to win. To make a long story short, we trusted the coaches and BOUGHT IN!”
(Incidentally, Jason’s favorite win during his time at Ole Miss is the 2012 Egg Bowl. When asked why this particular win stood out to him more than any other, Jason answered, “Because it was my first time having a party with 65,000+ of my favorite people!”)
Much like Rebels everywhere, Jones looks forward to watching the upcoming season unfold for Ole Miss. He believes the incoming recruits can help take the team to new heights. “I think the sky is the limit for this program once they understand what it means to play in the SEC and for Ole Miss,” he said.
He offered some advice for the young players who are just beginning their careers at Ole Miss.
“I would tell them to maintain a focus on what is important (school and football); stay out of trouble; keep their name clean; and, have good clean fun!” He added that new players should strive to “remember that your family and many other people are counting on you, and not to let them down.”
Jones clearly has great faith in the current coaching staff. He discussed the excitement surrounding the football program, and said he believes Coach Freeze and his staff will be successful in continuing the rise of the program.
“I trust and believe all the newcomers will buy in to what this coaching staff is feeding them,” Jones said. “And if they do so, they will definitely be on the road to becoming an unstoppable force–not just in the SEC West or SEC, but across the nation!”
Current issues in college football: Up-tempo offenses and defensive “targeting”
Jones also gave his perspective on a couple of hot-button issues in college football today. At the recent SEC Media Days, there was a lot of discussion about the effects of the up-tempo offenses, like those run by Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Some coaches, such as Saban and Miles, believe this type of offense will result in added injuries due to the increased fatigue resulting from the higher number of total plays being run.
Jones discussed the effects of these up-tempo offenses on the defenses that must face them.
“Any team that runs a no huddle offense has an advantage,” he said. “But, it’s not just the offense that benefits from the no huddle,” he added. “As a defense that practices against a no huddle offense, like we have at Ole Miss, we can go play a team like Texas A&M and have no problem against them. Facing our own offense in practice trains and equips us for opponents who run at the same type of pace.”
Another hot topic Jones addressed is the change in the penalty for “targeting” by a defensive player. This year a player will be ejected from a game if he is flagged for the infraction. One Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) official recently went so far as to say that the infamous hit by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in last season’s Outback Bowl, if done this year, would result in an ejection. Click here for a look back at the video of Clowney.
Jones feels strongly about the change in the penalty for a “targeting” flag. “I don’t really like it at all,” he said, “because as college athletes with dreams of playing on the next level, we are on the field every Saturday to showcase our talents and make big plays. As a defensive player, what are we supposed to do if a running back is coming at us with a full head of steam? Back down and make the ‘Not Top 10’ list on ESPN? Oh no–I’ll gladly take my ejection!” Spoken like a true defensive force!
Hamburg Blue Devils and the NFL
Though Rebel fans were surprised Jones was not drafted by an NFL team in this year’s draft, none doubt he will eventually end up in the league. He is playing defensive end and linebacker for the Hamburg Blue Devils with a 14-game regular-season schedule. His contract with the team is up in September; however, he and the team could agree to extend it beyond then.
One thing, though, is certain. When the call does come from an NFL team, Jason Jones will embrace the opportunity with the same passion he showed when he proclaimed, “I AM an Ole Miss Rebel!”
— Evelyn VanPelt, HottyToddy.com Sports Reporter
Evelyn was born in Texas, but has strong family ties to Mississippi. Her relatives are from Hinds County, and her daughter received three degrees from Ole Miss–culminating with a PharmD in 2012. Evelyn studied English at Texas A&M University, but is an Ole Miss Rebel at heart, falling in love with the both the school and Oxford over a decade ago when her daughter began school. Evelyn has a home in Texas, but spends as much time as possible in Mississippi where her daughter still lives. She enjoys covering Ole Miss football for gridirongirl.org and HottyToddy.com. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org