The last time Jarron Jones and his younger brother Jamir played on the same team was back when the pair of siblings were kids on a youth basketball squad. It didn’t go well.
“That team was not pretty good,” Jarron laughed. “I’m not gonna lie.”
Notre Dame’s football team, complete with the two Jones brothers, should be in line for better fortunes this fall.
Jamir will arrive on campus in South Bend this summer as a freshman member of Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class, joining his older brother, who’s in line to start as a graduate student nose guard on a defense that sorely missed his presence last year. For the entire Jones family, the one-year opportunity for the brothers to share the same uniform and field is an incredible development.
“It’s a blessing just for them to be in the same state next year,” Jarron and Jamir's mother, Kiescha, said. The family has previously had to split time between attending Jamir's games in Rochester, N.Y. and Jarron's games in South Bend and across the country. She added: "Just that they are blessed with a scholarship, they’re doing something that my husband nor I, could not even fathom or afford."
The impetus behind having both brothers on the same team is twofold: First, Jarron is on track to earn his degree in May and can return for a fifth year as a graduate student this coming fall; and second, Notre Dame offered Jamir a scholarship — which he quickly accepted with a verbal commitment — after seeing him work out at a camp last summer.
Neither were guarantees. Kiescha admits Jarron wasn’t a model student in high school at Aquinas and marvels at the in-the-classroom growth he's made over the last eight years. For her, the football side of things is “just the icing on the cake,” as she and her husband, Matthew Jones, have watched their son turn into mature, responsible adult who will have a degree from Notre Dame in a few months. He’s finished with the coursework for his sociology major and only has to take two classes to finish up as an undergraduate.
“I’ve been hashtagging (on social media) #TeamProudMom because Jarron, this was a kid who wouldn’t even write down his homework assignments,” Kiescha said. “He would go to classes and didn’t care, and didn’t even care even with the Notre Dame offer at his footsteps. Now he cares.”
Jarron, though, admitted he would’ve considered turning pro after the 2015 season had he been healthy. He still would’ve earned his degree, but building off a solid 2014 season could’ve propelled him into the NFL Draft — his 6-foot-5, 315 pound frame and excellent athleticism will give him a good opportunity to make it at the next level. But that torn ligament eliminated the possibility of going pro, which is why partly his mom believes there was a silver lining even to such a devastating injury.
Kiescha hopes her son takes some finance or business classes as a graduate student so he’s better prepared for the next step in life, whether or not that takes him to the NFL.
And, of course, everything comes back to the family aspect of a fifth year. Jarron and his mother are splitting the lease on an apartment for the fall, which will provide Kiescha with an opportunity to get into South Bend a day early, cook for the defensive line, hang with fellow parents and partake in Notre Dame’s pregame traditions — she still hasn’t had an opportunity to, for example, go to the Grotto or experience trumpets under the dome.
“I’m really doing this for her,” Jarron said. “I think she’s happy I’m staying another year.”
But, again, all this wouldn’t be possible without Jarron earning his degree later this year.
“To me, nothing’s bigger than Jarron graduating this May,” Kiescha said. “I don’t know what more could top that except the rest of my kids getting their college degrees. It’s just layers of blessings. It’s just nothing but, I’m just thankful. That’s really all I could say. I couldn’t even have dreamt it.”
Jamir always knew he wanted to follow his brother to Notre Dame, but was just waiting on the offer.
That came quickly last June after coaches saw the younger Jones work out on the defensive side of the ball. An offer was extended, and Jamir pledged his verbal commitment soon thereafter. The family had known Notre Dame was interested for a while, but it was a scholarship Jamir earned on his own merits, not because his brother was part of the team.
“Throughout the whole process, we never took for granted just because Jarron was there that automatically he’s going there and automatically they were going to offer him,” Kiescha said. “… It was much easier to convince him to go to Notre Dame than it was Jarron. Jarron was kind of resistant to the idea. Jamir understood what Notre Dame had, and two different kids. Jamir, from Day One, if they offered him, he was going.”
Jamir said playing football with his brother is “always been something I’ve wanted to do,” but that he also committed to the Irish because “there’s nothing that compares to Notre Dame.” He’ll likely begin his college career as a linebacker, but could also put his hand in the ground and rush the quarterback as a defensive end.
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The question for just about every freshman player when they arrive on campus is if they’ll take a redshirt year or not. Jarron, though, said he’s going to push his younger brother to see the field as a true freshman.
“If he’s going to play with me, he’s going to play, I don’t want him to take a redshirt, I want him to play and contribute because I feel like he can contribute,” Jarron said. “He’s a strong kid, he’s smart and that’s one thing about him, he doesn’t give up on himself. Especially when I’m here to push him, he knows not to let us down because we’re going to let him have it if he does. It’s always high expectations for him and I feel like he’ll do great.”
The Jones family will have eight tickets to Notre Dame home games this year, double the usual amount. Jarron and Jamir's grandfather is planning to attend his first Notre Dame game. The entire season will be a celebration of what Jarron, Jamir and the family have accomplished, as well as what's in store for the future.
"It’s been a dream," Kiescha said. "I don’t think anyone could’ve scripted it."