With TJ Jones made available to the media for the first time after the sudden death of his father Andre in June, there are a few great columns out today on the sophomore wide receiver and how impressive he’s been pushing on in a time of tragedy.
“Every second, when I’m not thinking about schoolwork or football, I’m thinking about him,” Jones said yesterday, reminding all of us how fresh the loss is to Jones and his family.
The guys over at IrishIllustrated.com were there to film Jones’ interview and instead of rewriting a bunch of quotes, you get a great feel for what a good kid TJ is just by watching this three-minute clip.
What the video didn’t capture was Jones talking about his confrontation with head coach Brian Kelly on the sidelines of the USF game, after Tommy Rees‘ pass bounced off TJ’s helmet and into the arms of a defender for a critical redzone interception.
“I think a lot of people reacted to that more than I guess what it was,” Jones said. “In the heat of the moment, I understand it’s coaching. I got the message he was sending, whereas other people just saw him yelling at me. I saw it as, put the play behind you. Get better the next play.”
While Kelly’s red-faced tantrum has gotten more than its share of media attention, it’s important to point out that while the volume level and facial coloring might be extreme, it’s not a coach breaking down or insulting his player, but rather coaching… with additional volume and intensity.
Besides, even Jones’ mother, who was on the field before the game with TJ during a pregame moment of silence, didn’t seem too worried about it.
“She thought it was kind of funny,” Jones said.
Having both of my parents still with me, I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose your father at such a young age — Andre Jones was only 42 when he passed away. But it’s clear that the entire Notre Dame family has been there for TJ as he grieves and transitions into a more paternal role as he helps his mother with his five younger siblings.
“I’ve become the man of the house,” Jones said. “My problems don’t really matter to me anymore. It’s more helping my family out. I just think to myself everyday that I have six other people at home that are counting on me.”
After a shaky opening Saturday, Jones has rebounded, scoring two important touchdowns in consecutive weeks for the Irish, adding another outside threat to the offense to go along with Michael Floyd. It’s hard not to credit that to maturity both on and off the field, and watching Jones — unfortunately forced — to grow up before us.
“I think he’s really stepped up,” Kelly said. “He’s a lot more accountable. He’s not a freshman anymore. Last year, there would be times where he would just act like a freshman. He’s a lot more mature in the way he handles himself.”