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Academic Athlete December 2011

Academic Athlete - In The Game High School Sports MagazineDevante Jones

Thomasville High School
Thomasville, Georgia

by Robert Preston Jr.
photography by Micki K Photography

Senior Quarterback Makes Most Of His Only Year As A Bulldog
Academic Athlete - In The Game High School Sports Magazine
Academic Athlete - In The Game High School Sports Magazine
Academic Athlete - In The Game High School Sports Magazine

Most quarterbacks enter their senior years with either a year or two of experience under their belts, or having spent three years learning the position while watching an older, more experienced signal caller. Thomasville High’s Devante Jones is not a typical quarterback. He stepped into the premier position for one of the most storied programs in south Georgia without ever having played a down for the Bulldogs during grades nine through 11. He hasn’t even played quarterback in any major capacity since he was 14 years old.

Jones has made the most of the opportunity he has been given by the Bulldogs. He has had a solid senior season after transferring to Thomasville from nearby Cairo. On the outset, it looked like it should have been a difficult decision to make. The Syrupmakers won a state title in 2008, and have made very deep playoff runs each year since. Jones had grown up in the Cairo system, and by his senior year, should have had a place in the starting lineup. That was the problem. Jones feared he wouldn’t be getting much playing time in Cairo during the 2011 season. He had been playing football since he was seven years old in Cairo. He played in the local youth leagues, middle school, and finally, with the Syrupmakers. In the ninth grade, he played on the freshman team, and saw a little action on the junior varsity squad. He was also scout team quarterback. That year, Cairo went undefeated and won a state championship. A year later, he was a starting linebacker for the JV team. He broke into the varsity lineup as a junior on special teams and a little at linebacker.

As Jones’s senior season rolled around, he had some concerns about how much playing time he would get. The 5’11”, 195-pounder was athletic with good speed and size He had the skills to play on both sides of the ball and do very well. Football is a funny game, and sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Cairo would be getting a new quarterback who was moving in from out of town. The Syrupmakers had a talented group of linebackers returning, all of whom were ahead of Jones on the depth chart. When Jones began to feel as though he wouldn’t have much of a chance to play at Cairo, he looked 15 miles east to Thomasville. “It wasn’t about playing quarterback. It was about playing time,” says Jones’s father, Quentin. “He just wanted an opportunity to play. Coach [Richie] Marsh said he would give him that opportunity somewhere, and we took him up on it.”

Jones says he wasn’t particular about where he played. He just wanted to play. “I figured I’d play either linebacker or quarterback. I wanted to play wherever I could,” he states.

Over the summer, Jones attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp in DeLand, Florida. During FCA camp, he learned that he would likely be the starting quarterback when the season opened on August 20.  Jones says it wasn’t hard to get used to the option-style offense that the Bulldogs run. It’s not that different from what Cairo uses, and Jones adapted quickly. In the Thomasville offense, he gets to run the ball quite a bit, something that suits him just fine. For a quarterback - or any running back - Jones is a punishing ball carrier. He runs like a power back, and isn’t afraid to run through defenders instead of around them. However, when it’s time to throw, he can find his receivers and let them make the big plays. Thomasville’s regular season ended with a 6-4 record and a third seed heading into the state playoffs. Jones had accumulated almost 900 total yards (525 rushing, 358 passing) and 14 touchdowns (10 rushing, four passing).  

As the playoffs begin, Jones has something else to offer his teammates besides the ability to make big plays - experience on a state title team. Both Cairo and Thomasville have played 13-game seasons over the last two years, so Jones doesn’t have any more playoff experience than his Bulldogs teammates. He does, however, have a state championship ring - something no Thomasville Bulldogs team has earned since 1988. Jones has seen what it takes to make a run like that through a five-week playoff schedule. And he wants his fellow Bulldogs to experience it. “The atmosphere for that game was tremendous. It was a great feeling. I want Thomasville to feel that. It was a great thing for our team,” he says.

Jones would like play football in college, but he’s found himself behind the proverbial eight ball in terms of post-high school opportunities. Because he didn’t play much in Cairo, Jones doesn’t have a highlight tape to send out and he hasn’t attracted the attention of college scouts - not yet, anyway. Jones has already watched his brother, Quentin Jr, earn a college scholarship. Quentin Jones Jr, who is just one year older than Devante Jones, is a 5’9”, 158-pound defensive back for the Miles College Golden Bears. Jones wants that same opportunity, and his coaches are helping him put together some highlights from this season. They are also working on getting Jones’s name out to colleges that might be interested in a player like Jones.

He might be coming to the recruiting part a little late, but one tremendous asset Jones has is his grade point average. From the first day he walked into school, he has been an exemplary student. And for that he can thank his parents. Says his father: “When I was coming up, I didn’t have the kind of support that Devante and Quentin have. I did just enough to get by. My wife, though, was an A/B student. She knew that if the kids were going to be successful, they had to get an education.”

Devante Jones’s parents established some very strict academic guidelines. They gave their sons $20 for every A they brought home, and $10 for every B. If they made a C, they could not play any sports until that grade came up. One grading period, Jones decided to test his parents’ strictness. On one progress report during his freshman year, he had a C. “I told him that he could practice but he couldn’t play any games until that C came up,” says Quentin Jones Sr. His son wasn’t very happy, and neither was the Cairo coaching staff. That grade came during a three-week stretch when the freshman team didn’t have any games. When the next grade report came out, Jones didn’t have any C’s. “I wasn’t very strict overall but when we put rules in place, we didn’t bend or break them,” says Quentin Jones Sr.

Competition was a part of everyday life in the Jones household. The boys were competitive with each other in everything they did, not the least of which was school. Whatever one did, the other wanted to one-up. Quentin Jones Jr. graduated from Cairo with a 3.87 GPA. Devante Jones has a 3.9. Quentin Jones  Jr. missed only a handful of days when he was in school. Devante Jones hasn’t missed a day of school in 14 years. Too much competition can cause problems, but it keeps the Jones brothers on track and focused on doing the right things.

Devante Jones loves math and plans to pursue a career in either the medical field or engineering. Over the years, he’s had his share of detractors, people who have wanted to belittle him because he spends so much time on his schoolwork. “My parents keep my mind focused. When I hear negative stuff, I just think about my parents,” he says. ITG