No surprise that former Bronco Jones stuck with football

DAHLONEGA - Lumpkin County High School head football coach Tommy Jones has always had football as part of his life.

His father was an offensive lineman for Decatur High School and Wake Forest and has been a longtime assistant coach for Brookwood. His mother is a former Atlanta Falcons cheerleader.

So his career choice as a football coach was not a surprise for anyone who knew the Brookwood grad.

"I grew up around the game of football," Jones said. "I don't remember a time when I didn't love football."

He graduated from Brookwood in 1991, leaving the team with an impressive three-year record of 33-6. He then attended Furman University on a football scholarship as an offensive lineman.

After receiving an undergraduate degree in history, he was an assistant coach for the Paladins while he worked toward a master's degree in education.

"I don't think I quite understood what was involved in coaching. There is a big difference between coaching and playing," Jones said.

But the former Brookwood football captain did not enter the coaching world totally ignorant.

Neither he nor his family remembers a time when he was not in love with the game. Maybe it had to do with the fact that football was a constant in his life. His father's players appeared as heroes and the game a dream for the youngster to one day fulfill.

"Football to me is a parallel to life. It demands discipline. It demands a very strong (work) ethic and it requires commitment," Jones said.

Jones followed his father, Tom, around as soon as he was able to tag along to practices and games. There, his love for the game blossomed.

Being around football players strengthened his resolve to be involved in football in the future, whether as a player or a coach.

After leaving Furman, Jones began his high school coaching career as an assistant at Dacula, then at Oconee County and finally at South Gwinnett.

"I feel like I learned a heck of a lot from a lot of coaching influences. From (Brookwood) Coach (Dave) Hunter I learned discipline and demanding (the best)," Jones said. "From Bobby Johnson I learned tremendous discipline and the way you treat kids."

While Tommy has gained vast knowledge from the coaches he played for and worked under, he cannot forget the influence from his father, as both a dad and a coach.

"He knew how to push me and make me better (in football). He was a great dad and knew how to support me," Jones said.

He shares the same name and same love with his father. Both love what they do and believe football, without anything better to describe it, is in their blood.

"I hope I have taught him a little about the game," Tom Jones said of his eldest son.

Jones would need his family's support as he embarked on his newest challenge - taking a struggling program at Lumpkin County and producing a winning team.

"When I took the (Lumpkin County) job, I understood it was going to be a building process," Jones said. "Any time you get in coaching you have aspirations to improve yourself and be the best you can be."

He took the program's history to mean that he had something to build - a program where some hard work and a coach who believed in the players' abilities could be enough to turn things around and prove everyone wrong.

"As a coach you have the idea of competition ingrained (in you)," Jones said. "You like challenges, you want challenges."

But sometimes before you can take a step forward you have to take a step back. Lumpkin County had a disappointing 0-10 record last fall in Jones' debut.

Despite the record, and an even tougher schedule that came with the jump to Region 7-AAA, Jones still believes in his players, his staff and his program.

You will not hear him saying anything negative concerning his team, especially to outsiders. He is quick to emphasize the strengths of a program that is more than just a team for him. It's a family.

"We have tremendous kids on our team," he said. "They work hard. I am proud of our players."

And like most families, there is the dad who keeps telling you the same story, with a lesson in there of course.

"Pound the rock" is what Jones and his coaching staff tell the players. He tells the story of a stone cutter who pounded a rock but did not get the rock to crush until the 100th blow.

But he makes sure the team understands that it was not the 100th hit that crushed the rock, but that it was the 99 blows before it.

"He loves the kids and obviously wants the best for them," Tom Jones said. "He is a coach's son. He is doing an outstanding job. He has prepared all his life for this."

Tom Jones is still at Brookwood as the offensive line coach and, along with Tommy's mother, Linda, are two of their son's biggest supporters.

"He took a program that was on the brink," Tom Jones said. "They are on the verge of being respectable."

Like his father did at Brookwood, Jones has his family heavily involved with his coaching job - his wife, Corey, helps with activities like fundraising. The couple has two daughters, Avery, 7, and Sydney, 4.

The whole family encourages Jones as he takes a lifetime of football knowledge into each tough challenge during his Lumpkin County rebuilding effort.