Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

January 5, 2013

BCS NOTEBOOK: Irish’s Jones follows father’s footsteps

MIAMI —  TJ Jones is the second player from his family to play for a national championship with Notre Dame.

He wishes the other one was still here to share the experience with him, as he and the top-ranked Fighting Irish prepare to play No. 2 Alabama for the BCS championship on Monday night in Miami.

Jones’ father, Andre, was a defensive end on the last Fighting Irish team to win the national title in 1988. He died in June 2011 of a brain aneurysm. He was 42.

“I don’t know if it’s helped the healing process. There’s a lot of things I wish I could have talked about (with him) to kind of figure out how to deal with things,” TJ Jones said Friday. “The mindset to take in certain situations. It’s definitely helped me reminisce a lot about what we used to talk about and the times we used to have. But as far as healing, that’s only time I guess.”

Andre Jones played for coach Lou Holtz from 1987-91. He played in 42 games and started four in ‘88, then a total of 18 in 1989 and ‘90.

He had a short professional football career. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and spent time with the Detroit Lions and in the Canadian Football League. Later, Jones was an executive for a sports management company in Atlanta. He left behind a wife, Michelle, and five children.

TJ, a junior receiver who is second on the team in catches and yards receiving, said his father wasn’t one to display mementos of his football career.

“He had his Notre Dame stuff in his closet and in his bathroom,” he said. “He used to wear his rings around all the time. But he was more into art, so we had delicate painting on the walls and artsy stuff, rather than Notre Dame stuff.”

TJ and his father used to have long phone conversations. His father was his biggest fan and toughest critic. Not being able to share some of the highlights of this season with him have been especially tough for TJ.

“The game-winning catch against Stanford was definitely one of them,” TJ said. “We always talked about making a game-winning catch, having a game-winning catch in any game is what you grow up practicing, whether it’s in the street or flag football.

“And definitely after we won the USC game knowing we were going to the national championship. That’s something I wish I could have called him and just talked for hours about what we were going to do. How crazy it was that we were both going to be in the national championship. Really just celebrate those moments with him.”

He misses his father, for sure, but he said Andre Jones isn’t totally gone.

“I feel he’s here with me every day,” TJ said. “I feel he’s watching over me. He’s watching over Notre Dame and my family as well. I never feel lost. I don’t feel like there’s a void in my life. I know I miss him and I can’t talk to him, but at the same time I don’t have an empty feeling that he’s gone.”

Some of his father’s old teammates, Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks, Pat Terrell and Rocket Ismail, TJ’s godfather, have been sure to keep in touch with Jones

“All those guys who I have normally talked to, they’ve reached out just to kind of say, ‘What’s up?’ — give me a little advice about how to handle this game,” he said.

Andre Jones taught his son many lessons, but TJ said what sticks with him most is to appreciate the gifts life gives you.

“Never to get too full of yourself,” he said. “To always give praise to the lord for the blessing you’ve been given. Because as soon as you’ve given them, they can be taken away. And you never know what tomorrow will bring. When you live in the present give praise and be thankful for what you have.”

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