Nov. 2, 2004
NEW ORLEANS, La. - As he stands at the blackboard of his freshman English class at Marion Abramson Senior High School in New Orleans East, all eyes are on first-year teacher Terrence Jones as he explains how to diagram sentences, interpret poetry and understand classic literature.
His athletic frame and booming voice command the attention of his students as he attempts to leave a lasting mark on the youths enrolled in his classes, and along the way, change the way the nation perceives the New Orleans public school system.
Not long ago, however, Jones was changing the way the nation perceived the Tulane University football program, gaining the type of national attention that few NCAA student-athletes receive. While setting nearly every Tulane single-game, season and career record in passing and total yardage during his career, Jones was on the national radar as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate as a senior in 1988.
"I was blessed to have a college scholarship," Jones said. "Tulane obviously is a very good school, and I was excited about the chance to play in the system under Mack Brown and Greg Davis. While I had a great experience on the field, Tulane really helped open doors for me, and helped me make contacts off the field that probably would not have been available to me otherwise."
While Jones enjoyed meeting new people, he relished introducing himself to everyone who lined up opposite him on the football field. Blessed with a strong right arm and nimble footwork, Jones left his mark as Tulane's career leader in passing yardage (7,684), passing touchdowns (46), completions (570) and attempts (1,042) while accounting for a school-record 9,445 yards of total offense and averaging an eye-popping 5.8 yards per play. He finished his career sixth in the NCAA in career total offense, rankinging just ahead of NFL Hall of Famer John Elway.
"If you asked me who the best combination quarterback in the country was, it wouldn't even be close," famed Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said of Jones during the 1987 season.
While Jones' bid for a Heisman Trophy came up short, he was named All-American and was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. In addition, Jones was named first-team All-South, and he was selected to play in the 1989 Senior Bowl where he would go on to earn South MVP honors.
Following his college career, Jones was selected by San Diego in the seventh round of the 1989 NFL draft, but theChargers wanted to move him to defensive back. Jones decided to turn down the Chargers' offer and headed north for the Canadian Football League.
"Sure, I could have been like (former Southwestern Louisiana quarterback-turned NFL return man) Brian Mitchell, making a living returning punts, or I could have been a solid defensive back," Jones said. "But, it was the principle of the thing - I wanted to play quarterback.
"I had played quarterback all the way back to my Pop Warner days. I love the NFL, grew up on the Dallas Cowboys, and still follow it closely. I am grateful that I was drafted, however. I respected their (Chargers') decision, and I hope they respected me for mine."
From there, Jones played a total of five seasons in the CFL - two with the Calgary Stampeders, two with the Ottawa Rough Riders and one with the Shreveport Pirates. Then, in 1995, Jones made a return trip to the NFL as a roster member of the New Orleans Saints during training camp. Then head coach Jim Mora informed Jones that while he had solid skills as a receiver, he was simply too old to learn the position at the age of 29. After his release, Jones walked away from the game.
"Football has been such a large part of my life, but I decided it was time to move on," he said. "I enjoyed football. It was fun. But there are more important things at this point in my life that are more appealing to me. I always knew there were more important things in life."
One of those important things was completing his degree and continuing his education. Jones graduated from Tulane in 1995 with a degree in physical education and completed his master's degree in organizational management earlier this month. In addition, Jones also has plans for a youth program that "I've had on paper for a while, but want to make a reality. At this point of my life, it's time I put my own physical labor into it and bring it to fruition."
Since receiving his bachelor's degree, Jones has worked a variety of jobs, including stints as a member of the Tulane Athletics staff Fund and as the assistant to the president at Jackson State University.
Today, Jones is back in New Orleans where he is married to the former Kimberly Smith - a native of the Crescent City - and has two children: Kirby Taylor Jones (12) and Tèa Mychol Jones (2).
In addition to his fatherly duties and obligation to his students at Abramson, Jones remains active in the Tulane community as a member of the T-Club Board, which elected him into its Hall of Fame back in 1996.
"I remember back in the late 70s and early 80s that Tulane and the New Orleans community were one and the same," Jones said. "There was a very good relationship between the two, and I'd like to see us get that back. The time is ripe to re-establish the ties, and I want to quarterback a piece of that initiative."
With Jones at the helm, anything is possible.
With a Heisman Trophy campaign based on the Holleywood hit