The best article I read this weekend was a profile of Alabama All-American offensive lineman Barrett Jones written by Al.com’s Don Kausler, Jr. Here are a few highlights from the article.
Just after his mother, Leslie, had talked about how the oldest of three sons could sing and recite 50 Bible verses when he was 2½ years old, Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones explained his priorities.
“I tell people, ‘I don’t want to be a football player who is a Christian. I want to be a Christian who happens to play football,'” Jones said.
What drives him:
“I don’t know why, but I just hate to lose at anything. In school, I want to get the highest grade on every test. It just bothers me when someone does better than me at something. It’s just how I am. I guess that’s easy to see in sports, the drive to be the best, watching film, working out, doing whatever it takes. That’s just been in me since I was born.”
Across the room, his father smiled.
“Probably the way God created you,” Rex said.
His passion fueled his development:
“Barrett began to go through these growth spurts,” Rex said. “He was like a big puppy. His legs and his motor skills were developing, and I came home and told Leslie one day after he was playing in the third or fourth grade, ‘I’m not sure he’s ever going to be an athlete. He may be just a musician and not be able to functionally play high school sports.’
“His middle school played Carterville, a big city school. We got killed,” she said. “He started at linebacker. He got in the car, and I thought he was going to be so mad that we lost. I said, ‘Well, how’d you like it?’ He said, ‘Well, I was born to play football. This is the most fun I have had in my life.'”
When Barrett Jones was a high school freshman, his team lost in the state championship game. A starting defensive end was injured. Jones went in. He was 14 years old and weighed 215 pounds. The opposing left tackle was 19 years old and weighed 360 pounds. His name was Michael Oher. Yes, “The Blind Side”/Ole Miss/Baltimore Ravens Michael Oher.
“One of the first plays, they ran the ball over my side and I made the tackle and I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,'” Barrett said. “The next play, the quarterback scrambled and I got his feet for like a gain of 2. I guess the next play he (Oher) got mad. He just drove me down the field and drove me into the turf.”
Rex saw a difference in his son after that game.
“That just fueled Barrett’s passion,” Rex said. “I think he set his sights and said, ‘I want to be at that level where Michael is.'”
Being recruited, or not, by Mike Shula:
Later that summer, Barrett attended a camp at Alabama, where he was more interested in going to college because of his dad’s background. Rex knew Mike Shula, then Alabama’s head coach, from college. They lived in the same athletic dorm.
“Mike’s staff wasn’t real sure about Barrett,” said Gottfried, Alabama’s basketball coach at the time. “Rex and I would talk on the phone. It frustrated both of us.”
His famous neighbor:
Long before he became Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton became Rex Jones’ friend. Sexton’s father, a dentist, was Rex’s Sunday school teacher in Memphis. Jimmy’s mother and father both taught a pre-marriage class that Rex and Leslie attended.
Sexton became the Jones’ next-door neighbor.
“When we got ready to have our children, we were picking out names,” Rex said. “His brother’s name is Barrett. We actually named our Barrett after (Sexton’s) brother. … He’s like part of our family. In his offseason, he’ll eat with us every third or fourth night.”
“Basically I say nothing is going to satisfy you in life except for a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “At times I make football the lord of my life instead of making Jesus that. We won a (2009) national championship, and it’s great, but if that’s what you’re looking for to fulfill your life, you’re going to feel very empty.”
Is he coming back next year?
“Everything in our life, we’ve done like he’s coming back next year,” Leslie said. “That’s the way we’ve been living our life.”