Game Changer

Aug. 16, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Every now and then a student-athlete comes along who not only excels at his sport, but in the way he lives. In the process of doing what he does, he changes those around him — not only how they play their sport but how they live their lives.

Roddy Jones is one such student-athlete.

Georgia Tech head football coach Paul Johnson relishes having been able to coach Jones all three seasons he’s played for the Yellow Jackets (Jones redshirted as a freshman) and to be able to do so one more time.

“Roddy is just the type of individual that people migrate to. He is naturally a leader by example,” said Johnson at Georgia Tech football media day. “He excels in everything that he does. He’s a great student, a pretty good football player, and a great person off of the field. He is the kind of guy that if you draw up a picture perfect student-athlete you would look at Roddy Jones.

“Most everything he does, he does with passion,” Johnson continued. “To be a real, true leader, the other people have to see that you walk the walk, you don’t just talk the talk. Roddy doesn’t talk much. He just goes about his business. If something needs to be said he says it, but he isn’t a big talker.”

Entering his final collegiate season, Jones has started 39 games, rushing for 1,388 yards (26th in school history) on 186 attempts — that’s 7.5 yards per carry (tops among active ACC backs) — with 11 touchdowns. He has another 15 receptions for 274 yards and two TDs. Those are nice numbers, especially for the non-featured A-Back.

He’d like to add on with a strong final season.

“I’m excited about this year,” he said. “Last year didn’t go as well as we planned. We got some good work in the off-season. We have a lot of young guys that are hungry, who are ready to come in and prove that they can play and that we as a team aren’t the same team as we were last year.

“The whole team definitely remembers the games that we lost and how we lost them and they’re excited to get back at those teams,” he added. “I think Kansas is the first one on our schedule that we lost to. So guys know that and they’re excited about it.”

Solid play on the field is only a facet of what makes Jones special. He’s President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, and has a list of community service projects in which he participates that is more diverse than Johnson’s entire playbook. The causes range from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Michael Isenhour Toy Drive, Special Olympics of Georgia, the KIPP Strive Academy, the Heat Track Club, Upward Bound Football League, BlazeSports Charity Wheelchair Basketball game participant, and Kids at Kollege. There are countless more, enough to earn a nomination for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for the second straight season.

He’s earned tremendous respect outside of the Atlanta community, as Johnson recalled on ACC Media Day.

“Every session that I went into, all the media wanted to talk about was Roddy Jones,” said Johnson. “How great of a kid he was, how well spoken, and how he handled himself.”

Notice there was no mention of how Jones, the three-time Academic All-ACC performer, who got his B.S. in Management, with a solid 3.11 GPA, would impact the spread option, or how he planned to help make up for the loss of skill players Anthony Allen and Joshua Nesbitt or how he’ll handle the pressure of defensive lines stacking the box against a relatively young offensive line. There was more interest in how he handles himself.

Jones handles his business by sticking to business. He is as intense a competitor as they come but also has a smile that someday will have the adjective “million dollar” in front of it. He can turn the simplest question into engaging conversation.

For example, he was asked, what does he remember about his first year or first preseason practices?

“Oh, man, I just remember on my first day I forgot my gloves. I was so excited to get out there that I forgot my gloves. I almost forgot my cleats,” he said, then joined the laughter of those around him. “I got out there and Coach [Chan] Gailey goes, ‘Did you forget something?’ I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘You don’t have your gloves.’ I was like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ That’s the main thing I remember.

“I just remember that it went fast,” he continued. “The learning curve was very steep and it went by fast. So I know exactly what the freshmen are going through. It goes fast and you kind of have to learn on the fly.”

Jones hasn’t forgotten his gloves since — although he has admitted to forgetting his cleats and running back to get them — nor has he forgotten what freshmen go through.

He also hasn’t forgotten who helped him become the leader that he is today. As he works with youngsters like sophomore B.J. Bostic or redshirt freshmen Deon Hill and Tony Zenon, Jones recalls who showed him the ropes and puts his own spin on their techniques.

“Leadership is something that you kind of develop over the course of your time and I’ve seen some great leaders,” he said. “My freshman year we had Tashard Choice and Philip Wheeler and those guys, with the great defense that we had. Then going through Michael Johnson and Darryl Richard and then Nesbitt last year, those guys were all great leaders in different ways. So I try to take different things from different guys and what worked for them and what didn’t and try to mold it into my leadership style.”

That style is rubbing off positively on everyone who comes in contact with him — opposing defenders notwithstanding.

“Roddy always goes out there with a positive attitude every day. He’s always yelling ‘It’s a great day for football!'” said redshirt junior guard Omoregie Uzzi. “Every day, when people are tired or getting down on themselves, they might fumble the ball or something during practice, Roddy is always encouraging them. He is a great leader.”

Uzzi, who also was a high school teammate of Jones says little has changed since their days together at Chamblee High School.

“Roddy was the man in high school,” Uzzi recalled. “Roddy right, Roddy left, Roddy up the middle. You’d just assumed he was going to make something of it.”

Jones makes as big a difference to teammates once he takes the pads off, as well.

“You can go to Roddy with any problem that you have and he’s always willing to give a helping hand, said junior linebacker Julian Burnett. “He’s just a great guy.”

Now known as “The Vet,” Jones is eager to create one more great season of memories.

“The Georgia game will be here before you know it,” he said. “I just want to enjoy every moment of it because this is the last one and I know it. So it’s going to be a fun year.”

–RamblinWreck.com–

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