Barrett Jones of Alabama Crimson Tide (Part 1 of series “Christians in Athletics”)

Today I am starting a new series called “Christians in Athletics.”  Barrett Jones grew up under the ministry of Adrian Rogers at Bellevue. Below is a clip from the Memorial Service for Dr. Rogers.

Barrett Jones of Alabama Crimson Tide has spent time the last two years ministering to earthquake victims in Haiti. Actually I wrote about Barrett’s faith in Christ and you can read my article at this link.

I am hoping my Arkansas Razorbacks win the game tomorrow, but Barrett Jones is a winner in life because of his relationship with Christ. He has been a Christian leader on that team and even Coach Saban has noticed.

Heart of an Athlete
Aug/Sept 2010

 

Q&A with Barrett Jones
University of Alabama
Offensive Lineman
 

Last season, sophomore offensive lineman Barrett Jones helped the University of Alabama football team win their 13th national championship. The right guard blocked his way to Freshman All-American honors after spending his Saturdays opening holes for Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram. Jones also stayed active off the gridiron as a member of both the Crimson Tide’s FCA Huddle and Campus Crusade for Christ; spent his spring break caring for earthquake survivors in Haiti; and maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom.

STV: Tell us what it’s like to win a national championship.
BJ: It was amazing because it was the culmination of all the hard work our team had put in. Winning the national championship fulfilled all my athletic dreams on the biggest stage.

STV: Do they let the linemen hold the crystal football from the BCS Championship trophy?
BJ: Yeah, I got to hold it, kiss it, and get my picture taken with it. I don’t know the official weight of real crystal, but it was heavy. I was kind of freaking out when I held it, and I was the last person who got to hold it before the coaches took it away. I don’t think they wanted it to get messed up.

STV: What did your individual honors mean to you?
BJ:I was just happy to be a part of such a great team. Individual honors follow successful teams. It was an honor to be named a Freshman All-American, but I was actually more proud of being named an Academic All-American because of how difficult it was to perform well in the classroom while playing sports.

 “I held the crystal football, but it didn’t compare to having a relationship with Jesus.”

STV: You are also involved with FCA at Alabama. In your opinion, why is it important for there to be athletic ministries on a college campus?
BJ: Ministries keep athletes focused on what is important. With all the other things going on, ministries are important in helping us stay focused on Jesus.

STV: Have you been able to share your faith with your teammates?
BJ: Yeah, I’ve had the opportunity to share with them, but it’s something I could do more often. I feel very blessed to have a relationship with the Lord and the testimony of understanding that earthly trophies are only temporary. I mean, there I was on the national championship team—the pinnacle of the college football world—holding the crystal trophy, but I still knew it didn’t have any eternal value. I held the crystal football, but it didn’t compare to having a relationship with Jesus.

STV: Athletes will be so encouraged by your message and inspired by the fact that you spent your spring break in Haiti. What was that experience like?
BJ: I don’t know if I can sum it up in words. I’d wanted to do something like that for a long time, and God showed me that it was where I should be. We worked at a refugee camp outside of Port-Au-Prince with kids who had lost everything. It was amazing to listen to their stories of how they survived the earthquake. We worry about so many things, and yet these kids have nothing but are still so happy. It really put my life and blessings in perspective. 

 

About the Athlete

 

School: University of Alabama
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Class: RS Sophomore
Position: Offensive Line

Career notes:
•2009 American Football Coaches Association and The Sporting News First Team Freshman All-American
•2009 SEC All-Freshman Team
•2009 Second Team Academic All-American

FCA Staff Quote:
“Barrett is a great player, but long after ’Bama’s fans forget about the blocks he threw, he truly hopes they remember the Christ he followed. Barrett is steady and consistent, and he makes the most of his opportunities for the Kingdom.” – Gary Cramer, University of Alabama FCA Director

There’s more to the Jones family than playing football

By Chase Goodbread
Sports Writer
Published: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. | The Joneses don’t quite fit the definition of ‘first family’ when it comes to football at the University of Alabama.

The Castilles, the Hannahs, the Croyles — all multi-generational football legacies at the Capstone — might be more fitting of that distinction in its most classic sense. For strings of related UA football players from a single generation, the Britts and the Goodes have the Joneses outnumbered, for the time being.

That’s OK. Football doesn’t come first for Rex and Leslie Jones — or their children — anyway.

“Faith has pretty much been the centerpost of what Leslie and I decided to build our family around,” said Rex Jones, former Alabama basketball player and father of UA football players Barrett and Harrison Jones. “We agreed to base it all on biblical truth. Now that our boys are 20, 18 and 16, we can look back and say we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Barrett, Harrison and the youngest, Walker — who is a standout sophomore football player at Memphis Evangel Christian like his brothers before him — grew up in a household that was as athletically competitive as any. With a family history of athletes that goes back decades on both sides, it’s of little wonder.

Living in a basketball-is-king town like Memphis, and matriculating at a football-is-king college like Alabama, it’s of greater wonder that sports in the Jones family never escape their proper perspective.

Back when I played

Every day after school, Rex Jones used to pedal his bicycle a couple of miles to the University of Montevallo gym to watch dad do his thing.

His father, Bill Jones, had his first basketball coaching job at a four-year college, and wasn’t about to just blow a whistle with it. He took care of the gym floor. He taped ankles. It was the early 1970s, and Alabama football coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant was already an icon in the state, laying the groundwork for his fourth national championship team.

But the only ball Rex Jones cared about didn’t have laces on it. All he wanted to do was shoot hoops.

And in time, all he wanted was to do it at Alabama.

“I fell in love with (former UA basketball coach) C.M. Newton because every year he would do a basketball camp in Huntsville, Florence and maybe Mobile,” said Jones. “He had three camps each summer, and Florence was one of the areas he came to. From the sixth grade on, I went to basketball camp with Coach Newton, Coach (Wimp) Sanderson, Coach (John) Bostic, all those coaches would come to our school.”

Rex Jones earned a basketball scholarship to Alabama, where he played as a reserve from 1981-84 behind seven eventual NBA draft choices. Meanwhile, Bill Jones was busy building a legacy as basketball coach and athletic director at the University of North Alabama. UNA won the NCAA Division II national championship and made four Final Four appearances under Jones, who died two years ago at 72. He coached 202 career games at Flowers Hall, UNA’s home court, and won 165 of them. One of his assistant coaches was current Alabama women’s basketball coach Wendell Hudson, who left a job as a men’s assistant at UA to work for Jones.

“Going from Alabama to a smaller school like UNA, it was looked upon by peers of mine like, ‘What are you doing?,’” said Hudson. “But I can look back and say it was one of the best moves I ever made. I needed to grow as a coach, and to go from a staff of four to a staff of two is what made that happen. There was no finer person than Bill Jones, and he allowed me to try all kinds of things. He and I did it all — the Xs and Os, the scouting, the recruiting. It was a great experience.”

Athleticism in the Jones family goes back about as far as anyone is able to look.

Bill was a three-time basketball letterman at UNA from 1955-57. Rex’s wife Leslie has a family history rife with college football and basketball athletes from Russellville. Horton Smith, great grandfather to Rex’s three boys, never did get the chance. He had scholarship offers to play football, but his father needed him as a farm hand on their Lauderdale County property.

“What I know about that, I’ve just read in newspapers,” said Rex’s mother, Joan. “Playing sports in college then wasn’t the big deal then as it is now.”

Gifts aplenty

It would be an easy assumption, with two football players at Alabama and a third quite possibly bound for college football as well, that the Jones brothers have been carrying footballs since they were 3 years old.

Instead, the first thing Leslie Jones put in their hands was a violin. Mom had each eventually playling well enough to perform everywhere from school functions to weddings, from nursing homes to church services. In time, violin lessons gave way to sports. In fact, it was a finger injury sustained at a football practice that got Barrett out of a violin lesson that may have been his last. The end of his brothers’ violin days soon followed.

“They all quit at the same time,” Leslie said. “When Barrett got to quit, they all said, ‘Hey, that looks pretty good to me.’”

Barrett has earned Academic All-America honors and carries a double major in finance and accounting, and his younger brothers excel in the classroom as well. Harrison has a gift for electronics. Walker can play piano. All three can solve a Rubik’s Cube in minutes, and used to compete with their cube-solving skills using a timer.

At one point, it even appeared Barrett might be headed for a college career in basketball, like his father, rather than football. He traveled the country as a youngster playing in AAU tournaments, and didn’t become a full-time football player until about the 10th grade.

“I really liked basketball a lot and I still do, but I realized football might be my sport,” he said. “There is some carryover in the way you move your feet and get your hands up and stuff. That’s helped me an awful lot.”

Making a difference

Barrett Jones’ trip to Haiti over spring break to assist with earthquake relief efforts was well-documented. After a catastrophic quake killed thousands and left more than a million Haitians homeless in January, Jones and two friends, including walk-on UA player Hardie Buck, spent a week doing all they could to help Haiti rebuild from ruins. But it wasn’t Jones’ first experience with helping those in extreme need.

Not even close.

The Jones’ took all three of their children to Honduras nearly a decade ago on a family mission trip through their church, ministering to and helping those most in need following a hurricane. The violins came along for the trip, and the brothers used them as part of their mission testimony.

“I think it was the first time my kids had ever seen kids getting out of bed every day just looking for something to eat. That impacted them because of the way they eat — they eat like horses,” said Rex Jones. “We did a vacation Bible school, I took them into orphanages, a prison … you’d never imagine where I took them.”

Jim Heinz, who coached Barrett and Harrison at Memphis Evangel Christian before retiring, has witnessed first-hand what service to others means to the Jones boys. Heinz accompanied Barrett to San Antonio three years ago for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a week-long gathering of the nation’s top high school football players culminating with a nationally-televised contest.

Barrett was there for football, but he was struck by something else.

“The Army honored the soldiers all week and took the players to the hospital they had for the soldiers’ treatment,” Heinz said. “Barrett got to hear the soldiers about their service, and I felt like that meant about as much to him as playing in the game.”

Talk to some of the people who have gotten to know them best, and one will find the younger two brothers are about as well-grounded as the older. At least one pays the ultimate complement from one man to another: trust with a daughter.

“They still say their sirs and ma’ams, and they mean it. It’s very unusual,” said Belleview Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines. “There is no hypocrisy there, no fakeness there. My youngest daughter went with Harrison to a couple of proms. He’s a gentleman.”

Turning Crimson

Ironically, it may have been the coach of Alabama’s chief rival, then Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who played a key role in the decisions of Barrett and Harrison to play football for the Crimson Tide.

Barrett attended a summer camp at Auburn midway through his high school years, and though he was undersized for a lineman — 250 pounds, Rex estimated — and hadn’t yet sworn off basketball, he caught the attention of Hugh Nall, Auburn’s line coach at the time. The Jones’ spent an hour with Tuberville, who eventually gave Jones his first Southeastern Conference scholarship offer.

His advice?

“He said, ‘Barrett, figure out where you want to go to school and then play football there.’ That’s something we always stuck by,” said Leslie Jones. “And when it came down to it with Harrison, that’s what he went by, too.”

The family bought a custom van to make unofficial visits to colleges all over the country, both during Barrett’s recruitment and Harrison’s. They went to Auburn and Alabama, to Oklahoma and North Carolina, and more. But they kept coming back to Tuberville’s advice. And once Nick Saban — whom the Jones’ had met through Jimmy Sexton, a close family friend, neighbor, and Saban’s agent — had taken over the Alabama program program, there was little doubt where they would be going to college. Now, the Jones family is Crimson through and through — right down to the dog, Rose, so named because she was acquired in January just after UA’s national championship win over Texas in Rose Bowl Stadium.

And it didn’t take long for either Barrett or Harrison to blend in at UA.

Barrett has been a full-time starter at right guard since his redshirt freshman season. As a true freshman in 2008, he suffered a torn labrum, making for his second such injury — one in each shoulder — since high school. Normal rehabilitation would have projected to sideline Jones for spring practice in 2009, but he rehabbed more aggressively in order to participate in the spring and had taken command of a starting role by the following fall camp.

He hasn’t been out of the lineup since.

Harrison Jones’ UA career nearly got off to a slow start as well, but for a much different reason. Initial plans were to grayshirt the tight end, meaning he would defer his enrollment until next January. But when freshman signee Alfy Hill left camp in August for academic reasons, Barrett’s little brother was Saban’s choice to fill the vacant roster spot.

He joined the team only days before the school’s enrollment deadline, just before the season began, and got to miss all the two-a-day practices under grueling August heat. But his new teammates had some leftover heat saved for him.

“He came back to Alabama to join the team on the same day Brett Favre came back from skipping camp with the Vikings in the NFL,” said Rex Jones. “They nicknamed him Brett Favre from day one, because he’d missed camp.”

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.

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