Transfer Reggie Jones wants to provide for family, including imprisoned mother
The Portland State player with perhaps the best chance to make it to the NFL someday has played very little college football going into his junior year. But cornerback Reggie 'Showtime' Jones is understandably driven.
'His goal in life is to make sure the ladies in his life are taken care of,' PSU secondary coach Alundis Brice says.
These aren't women he takes out on a Saturday night. They are his sisters, ages 16 and 11, and his mother, Tonya Jones, who hasn't seen him play anything in nearly eight years.
In November 2000, Tonya Jones was convicted of second-degree murder of her husband, Donny Jones, the man Reggie Jones called Dad and who was the father of Reggie's sisters. Reggie has never met his real dad.
Jones was a seventh-grader in Federal Way, Wash., when Donny died of severe burns in October 1999. He managed to tell police that Tonya had poured gasoline on him and then thrown a match at him. Tonya denied it, but she eventually was sentenced to 14 years.
'It really hurt,' Jones says. 'It hurts going up to see her (in prison). I was definitely close to her, when all that happened. I keep that with me. Not a day goes by that I don't think about it. She writes me letters all the time. When she gets out, I want to be able to show her the good life. And my sisters need somebody to look up to.'
For them, and just because he's so competitive, Jones wants to have the kind of big year at PSU that gets him to the next level.
'I plan on doing something big with football,' he says.
Brice, who says he relates to Jones because he was like him in some ways as a youngster, thinks he can achieve his goals.
'He has to learn a lot more (defensive back) technique - all his life he's covered receivers just on his ability,' says Brice, who played cornerback for two NFL teams and two Canadian Football League clubs and won a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys. 'If he can do that, I'd bet you a million dollars that this kid would play in the NFL for a long time … as long as he's healthy.'
Sounds great to Jones, a transfer from Idaho, where he suffered knee and ankle injuries and saw limited action in three years before things soured as the Vandals changed coaches, from Nick Holt to Dennis Erickson to Robb Akey. Brice came to PSU from Idaho, too, and recruited Jones, who appeared headed to Oregon out of high school until he had trouble passing his SAT. Jones says Brice is 'somewhat like a dad to me.'
'I had the honor of coaching him at Idaho,' Brice says, 'and he came here, frankly, because he wanted to stay around me. I've known him a long time. He was just a kid who didn't trust anybody, and he had to scratch and fight and claw for his grandmother and his sisters. Every time he had a problem, he had to solve it himself. I'm lucky I was one of those he trusted.
'At Idaho, Reggie was flunking out. I used to pick him up and he would sit at my desk and do his work, and when I got done at 10 or 11 at night, that's when I took him home.'
These days, Jones laughs, jokes around and enjoys being a Viking football player. 'If you saw him a few years ago, you'd swear it was two different guys,' Brice says.
Jones says he is on pace to graduate after the football season, too, with a degree in sociology. Broadcasting or a job 'helping people' would be nice, he says, 'but right now my eyes are set on football.'
He's 6-0, 200 pounds, runs close to a 4.4 40, has a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap and thrives on contact. He can return kicks, and he'll probably play some offense, too, for PSU, catching passes in the run-and-shoot. 'He'll eat and sleep on defense,' Brice says, 'but we want him to learn three or four pass routes, and he might get a couple of series on offense.'
Head coach Jerry Glanville wants to give Jones a try at wideout.
'He is a good person, fun to coach, there is good stuff inside of him,' Glanville says.
Jones, who got the nickname 'Showtime' while in high school, says he loves the pressure that a cornerback faces. 'If you get beat, everyone knows it, but if you make a great play, everyone knows that,' he says.
His favorite player was Deion Sanders, and 'if you put a camera in my face, I will entertain. … I plan on playing football until my legs fall off.'
Brice preaches that Jones first must learn enough to conquer the Big Sky Conference.
'But with his speed and agility, if he works hard on making himself the best player he can be, every day, there's no doubt in my mind somebody could call his name on NFL draft day.'
The Vikings have nine more practices before the spring game at 1 p.m. May 10 at PGE Park. Season-ticket holders get in free, others pay $5.
• Coach Jerry Glanville says he is pleased with the look of his defensive front seven. The Vikings return three solid linebackers and have added two good junior college defensive ends.
Glanville also says he sees improvement in sophomore lineman Travis Beckley and senior nose tackle Lloyd Talakai, a 6-1, 340-pounder who 'has gotten in better shape.'