Seen in multiple UCA football promotional images wearing a mask vaguely similar to that of Jason from “Friday the 13th” while in full uniform, senior Joseph “J.W.” Jones is far from scary. While he may bring the adrenaline when running the field, his heart for his hometown sets him apart off the field.
Originally from Rayville, Lousiana, the defensive end is a redshirt junior for the Bears. His high school there is where he got his start. With a brother who played in the NFL for 8 years, Jones said football “runs in the family.”
However, when it comes to his plans of playing in the NFL — particularly for his dream team, the Baltimore Ravens — Jones said he’ll take the opportunity if it’s there.
“If not, I’m going to pursue my career,” Jones said.
He is currently studying exercise science and plans to graduate in the spring of 2020. After graduation and his last year playing for the Bears, Jones plans to go somewhere he can network and make connections that will help him when he eventually moves back home to Lousiana.
“I want to give back to my community,” Jones said. “My main focus is on the youth.”
With the goal of becoming a personal trainer or nutrionist, Jones wants to bring back resources to the kids of his hometown that he believes would have helped him during his time there, playing high school football. One of those things is a nutrition center.
“A lot of my hometown kids, they didn’t have [nutritious options],” Jones said. “You can eat anything and then perform at a bad level. If you’re healthy that leads to less injuries.”
However, pushing through the lack of resources during his time as an adolescent athlete and remaining committed to the sport isn’t an easy task. Learning to work with whatever tools were available to him has also contributed to his mental strength.
“Being a student athlete is tough,” Jones said. “A lot of student athletes you walk by, they’re always mentally strong.”
He said while he believes that all college students have to be mentally strong, it’s a “different energy” when you meet a student athlete. It’s these lessons that help him stay motivated to succeed.
“In life, there’s going to be tough times — and there are a lot of tough times in football — but you’re taught to just push through,” Jones said.
Things aren’t all serious with him, though. While sometimes, he does enjoy the alone time to listen to music and prepare before a game, often times, it’s quite the opposite.
“Most of the time, I get other people hyped,” Jones said. “That’s most of the time — me going around and having fun with my teammates, just getting everyone excited.”
Jones and the UCA Bears will play their first game of the season against Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.