Sept. 11, 2000
by Steve Bent
Few places, if anywhere, in the country is college football more celebrated and sacred than at the University of Notre Dame. While names such as Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, John Huarte, John Lattner, John Lujack and Leon Hart help identify the Irish program, people from all over the world make annual, and sometimes weekly, pilgrimages to South Bend to see the mystique of Notre Dame football.
It is this mystique that attracts would-be Notre Dame football legends to the University. Many high school football players come to South Bend to be a part of the long-standing tradition and athletic excellence that Notre Dame can offer. One such player is senior offensive lineman Jim Jones.
A standout at Richards High School, this Chicago Ridge, Ill., native came to Notre Dame with high expectations. He hopes those expectations play out in 2000.
"When this year is over, I want to look back and know that I did everything possible to be a great player and to help Notre Dame win," Jones says.
Growing up, Jones enjoyed surrounding himself in a competitive atmosphere. Whether he was playing video games with friends or two-hand touch football at recess, he was always competing.
"I just enjoyed competing with the other kids. There was something about the competition that grabbed me," Jones says.
In seventh grade, Jones was introduced to the game of tackle football where he continued to develop his competitive nature. It wasn't until high school that this competitive nature was fine tuned.
In high school, Jones took a special interest in weightlifting. Keeping in line with his fierce competitiveness, he started lifting to gain a strength advantage over the competition. Jones did that by working out three hours a day, four days a week.
"Working hard with weights and investing all that time makes them important to you," Jones says.
"Weightlifting was something everyone was doing. My high school has a great football tradition. The players take pride in that tradition. Weightlifting is one way to make sure the tradition continues because to us, weightlifting means winning."
Richards High School in Oak Lawn has sent 59 players to Division I programs, 33 players to Division II and 58 to Division III, not to mention two state championships.
It was Jones' love for programs enriched in tradition that led him to South Bend.
"I wanted to be part of a program that was competitive, but I also wanted to be part of a tradition. Notre Dame seemed to be the obvious choice," Jones says.
While at Notre Dame, Jones continued to take pride in his weightlifting where he established himself as one of the strongest players on the 2000 squad with the ability to bench press over 500 pounds.
"I really take pride in my work ethic on and off the field," Jones said.
That work ethic has paid off as Jones is starting at left offensive guard this season. He is one of four returning offensive linemen, along with Jordan Black, John Teasdale and Mike Gandy, providing protection for first-year starting quarterback Arnaz Battle. Jones was named to the 2000 preseason all-Independent team by The Sporting News, quite a feat after playing in only three games and a little over six minutes his first three years at Notre Dame.
"I believe my work ethic will help me get to the next level. Playing in the NFL has been my lifelong dream. It is something I have worked for and continue to work for every day of my life," Jones says.
"Growing up around Chicago, I have been a Bears fan. Nothing would make me happier than to be drafted by the Bears. However, I am not picky. Just being able to play at the next level would make all of my efforts worthwhile."
"Jim is our strongest player and is finally comfortable playing offense," offensive line coach Dave Borbely says.
"He has been perfect execution-wise as far as assignments go this season. We have been trying to get him to take it to another level this year. I think he has a good chance to play in the NFL because he is big enough, strong enough, smart enough and fast enough to make it on that level."
As for Notre Dame, Jones is proud to have added his name to the rich tradition that brought him to South Bend.
"What I will miss the most is the atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium on a Saturday afternoon. It is definitely the best place in the country to play college football because it is important to so many people.
I feel as though I am playing for all of the people who have played before me, and setting an example for those who have yet to play," Jones says.
When the end of the season comes and goes and Notre Dame football tradition is extended by yet another season, Jim Jones definitely will be remembered for his strength, ntense work ethic and overwhelming love for the game. Who knows, maybe the great players and coaches will be remembered as Rockne, Leahy, Lujack, Hart, Huarte and Jones.