ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Jones College won ten games last season - including a bowl victory for the first time since 1998 - but fell short of a national championship on the football field.
However, the Bobcats were awarded perhaps an even bigger honor as the NJCAA’s Football Academic Team of the Year – leading 65 JUCO programs with a 3.14 GPA.
“We were pretty excited because everybody puts a lot of work into academics and stuff like that in order to be on the field, graduate early and play after Jones,” said sophomore wide receiver Brodie King, who boasts a 3.86 GPA.
“We recruit the right kind of kids who take academics serious and the results are kind of staggering sometimes,” said Jones head coach Steve Buckley. “But our kids bought into what we’re doing and to receive that honor was just a great blessing for our program.”
When coach Buckley arrived in Ellisville four years ago, he wanted to build a championship program. This goal began with bringing in championship people - including the athletes, coaches and Director of Academic Enhancement Carla Collins.
“Coach Buckley kind of demanded that they take pride in the classroom and the first part was bringing Ms. Carla in,” said Richard Chambliss, the Director of Football Operations.
“From my first week being here, I realized how serious it was,” said sophomore defensive back Lakevias Daniel, who owns a 3.89 GPA. “You gotta see Ms. Carla almost every day as a freshman. She’s like a mother to us, she basically makes sure we have what we need to be the best we can.”
The C.L. Neill Student Center on campus is Collins’ stadium, where she’s the coach and referee. From day one, Collins established a standard that she learned from 17 combined years at Southern Miss and the University of Miami.
“Everyone on the staff right now has Division I experience and we were going to run this program as a Division I program,” Collins said. “My goal is to prepare them for what they’re going to run into when they go to the Division I school. It took a little while for them to buy into what we’re doing and then just to continue the process with each new class that comes in. And each year it just gets better and better.”
In three years, Jones College has sent three players to the NFL, 67 to four-year programs and 99 percent have graduated.
“It basically just shows that we’re a part of something special,” said Daniel, an Ole Miss commit. “Our coaches do whatever they can to get the best out of us. Just seeing the players go to the NFL from Jones, it just motivates me each and every day to keep going. I got a family to take care of.”
“You have to have a passion for it,” Collins said. “You have to be here to help these young men realize that they can make it. Some of them come from backgrounds that they don’t think they have a chance to do this so to see them realize their dreams, that’s why I do this job.”