Tell Harold Jones-Quartey you don't know much about Ghana and he becomes a living, breathing Wikipedia page.
The list of facts begins: The West African country of Ghana used to be called the Gold Coast because, well, it had a lot of gold. The British influence in the country's culture is noticeable. They drink tea, call cookies biscuits and it's why Jones-Quartey's name is Harold and his brother is called Daniel. Ghana was one of the first African countries to gain independence from Great Britain. And it's one of the only African countries to never have a civil war.
"I think that's pretty awesome," Jones-Quartey said. "That's my country. I can't wait to go back."
Jones-Quartey, a safety the Eagles signed to their practice squad last week, was born in Ghana and although he hasn't lived there since he was 9, he still has a ton of Ghanan pride.
After giving birth to Harold in 1993, Rosemond Odamtten moved to the United States. Her sons didn't move with her to Ohio until Harold was 9. They grew up in Ghana with their father and grandmother.
And Jones-Quartey hasn't been back since.
He hopes that changes soon. Jones-Quartey is planning on visiting his birth country next year, during the NFL offseason. Family is extremely important to Jones-Quartey, but this would be his first time back to Ghana in 15 years. And it would be the first time seeing most of his family since he was a small child. In addition to his dad and grandma, Jones-Quartey also has seven half-siblings in Ghana; he has met just three of them.
"Oh my god. I can't wait," he said. "I honestly cannot wait."
While Jones-Quartey hasn't seen his dad, Emmanuel Jones-Quartey, in a decade and a half, he's in touch with him almost constantly. The two of them communicate every two or three days via WhatsApp or FaceTime.
Being a boy living in Ghana wasn't so bad as he remembers it. Jones-Quartey has fond memories of that time in his life, especially of his dad and grandmother.
His older brother (by three years) Daniel remembers how tough it was to grow up without their mother.
"It was hard," Daniel said by phone last week. "Being the oldest and knowing what was going on. My brother had no idea. There was a time I remember where my mom came to visit us and she walked right past my brother, she didn’t see him. He saw her and had no idea that was his mom. I had to tell him."
Daniel thinks his brother was just about 2 or 3 years old in that story. Their mother would visit as often as she could and played a big role in funding their schooling back in Africa.
Still, dad and grandma did a good job raising Harold and Daniel. Harold can't wait to see his grandma again; she was like a mother to him for his first nine years. Apparently, Harold said with a smile, he was her favorite grandson because he was darker-skinned than most of his other siblings and looked more like her.
Road to Philly
Emmanuel Jones-Quartey owns a bar and restaurant in Ghana's capital city of Accra that has become a little oasis for American football fans in West Africa — at least fans of his son.
Jones-Quartey said his dad told him about a visitor who came into the bar and started talking about him. At that point, Harold was playing with the Bears.
"I thought I was pretty cool," Jones-Quartey said, "because that's all the way in Africa."
Back in the States, Jones-Quartey's football career was starting to take off a little bit.
After going undrafted out of Findlay University in 2015, the safety signed a rookie deal with the Cardinals and had a good preseason in Arizona. He was waived by the Cards but claimed by the Bears and found a good landing spot.
In that first year in Chicago, Jones-Quarty played in 13 games with four starts. Last season, he played in all 16 games and started 12. In 29 games over the last two years, he had two interceptions, seven passes defensed and a forced fumble.
But at final cuts this summer, Jones-Quartey was waived. In October, he spent one week with the Jets' practice squad before they let him go. He was jobless until the Eagles brought him in Nov. 14.
"Honestly, I'm grateful for the opportunities that I have and I feel like God's given me another chance here and I'm excited to be a part of this organization," he said. "This locker room is great, everybody is great and accepting. Chicago was great and I'm very grateful for the opportunity they gave me but I'm looking forward to a new journey here."
Jones-Quartey has made a career of football, which was a long shot not so long ago. In Ghana, the major sport is soccer, so American football took some getting used to. Jones-Quartey just seemed to have a knack for it.
But mom wasn't on board.
Odamtten was against the idea of her son's playing football. She's never really gotten over some of that.
"She just doesn't like the physicality of the game," Jones-Quartey said. "But I'm usually the one giving the punishment. I tried to tell her that."
Mom didn't listen and it caused a little rift in the relationship. After Jones-Quartey began to go to Horizon Science Academy, a school without a football team, during his junior year of high school, he decided he wanted to continue playing. He joined a Christian club team called the Columbus Crusaders.
Mom kicked him out of the house.
Jones-Quartey said that was the first time he had ever really stood up to his mother. Looking back, he realized he simply called her bluff. When she kicked him out, he gathered some things in a trash bag and moved in with Daniel, who lived about five minutes away. About a week later, his mother told him to come back, but at that point, he was comfortable living with his brother.
"I always try to look at the positives," Jones-Quartey said about his relationship with his mother during those two years. "We've had some arguments and disagreements like everybody else, but at the end of the day, she loved me and wanted what was best for me. I felt like I knew what was best for me more than she did."
Turns out, Jones-Quartey was right about his future in football. He earned a scholarship to Division II Findlay University in Ohio (about a two-hour drive from Columbus) and played in 43 games in four years for the Oilers.
Daniel Jones-Quartey realized his brother had a chance to make a career out of football when he watched him in college. In the second or third game Daniel got to watch his brother play in the NFL, he saw him intercept a pass and make a huge hit. Daniel just happened to pull out his cell phone in time to record the hit and sent the video to his brother after the game. He's incredibly proud.
"It's a dream happening right now," Daniel Jones-Quartey said. "I still wake up every day, scratching my head that this is going on."
As for mom, she came around too.
"She has a lot more respect for it now," Daniel said. "She'll yell his name and stuff but I still don’t think she knows what's going on. She understands the scoreboard and which team she should root for, but she doesn't know what's going on."
Pass the stuffing
This Thanksgiving, Jones-Quartey will be a little busy. He will be at practice with the Eagles as they prepare to face his old team Sunday afternoon.
If he were not in Philadelphia for the holiday, he would be back in Columbus celebrating with his family. While Jones-Quartey wasn't born in the United States, he became a citizen when his mom did and the family has adopted Thanksgiving.
Rosemond is the cook of the family. And while she's great at preparing African food, she goes traditional on Thanksgiving. The turkey goes either in the oven or a deep fryer.
Jones-Quartey said he's never talked to his mother about how difficult those first nine years of his life had to be on her. They choose to look at the positives, the biggest of which is that she eventually got him and his brother to America and gave them an even greater opportunity in life.
Family is the most important thing to Jones-Quartey. It's why he's grateful for his mother and brother in the States and why he can't wait to visit his family in Ghana in a few months.
"Coming from Africa, there's not much, so everybody kind of looks up to me," he said. "I have to keep going."