By Howard Goldin
The final phase of the 2013 college football season has begun, which is the playing of the annual Bowl games. For the student-athlete that is a senior, he will be appearing in his final college game. The story of each of these young men’s past, present and future is unique, yet each, like every college graduate, will be entering a new stage of life with its own opportunities and challenges.
This story is about TJ Jones, a Notre Dame senior who plays wide receiver on its renowned football team. Jones was born in Winnipeg, Canada, but moved with his family to Georgia as a young child. He was a highly regarded football player in high school, but chose to enroll at Notre Dame for very personal reasons, “My father [Andre] went here [1987-91]. My father met my mother here when she was in graduate school and he was an undergraduate. In my visit to the school, I saw the closeness of my father with the other students after 20 years.” An example of the closeness of the students is that Jones’ godfather, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, was a teammate of his father on the football team at Notre Dame.
TJ, like his father, has been a success on the football field. Both were contributors to highly successful teams that compiled winning records and competed in a Bowl game at the end of each of the four seasons they played. During the current season, Jones surpassed his previous seasons’ statistics with 65 receptions accounting for 1,042 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns one by rushing.
The last four years have not been all smooth or good times as Jones’ father died in 2011, his sophomore year. It affected him greatly, “I believe I grew into the man I am today at a young age after my father died.”
At this stage in his life, the articulate young man voiced his thoughts regarding his years at Notre Dame, “It’s been a roller coaster, a lot of highs and a lot of lows. Today was my last practice. Saturday will be my last game. It’s hard to believe; I feel like I just got here. I feel young.” It’s bittersweet; I’m sad to leave these guys but it’s exciting. The possibilities [for the future] are endless.”
He also expressed his hopes for future endeavors. Like his father, who was drafted by Pittsburgh in 1991, Jones hopes to play in the NFL. Of being invited to the NFL Combine, he admitted, “That’s the goal.”
Jones also has longer-term goals for the more distant future after his football days have ended. The Radio, Television and Theater major projected his desires, “As I get older, I’d like to get small acting roles. I’d also like to be able to work with killer whales at Sea World.”
Regardless of what his future holds, the memories of his college years will always remain with him, “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, being part of the tradition of Notre Dame and playing at Yankee Stadium [in 2010 and 2013].”