Football may be America’s most popular sport at the prep level, just as it is on television, but that doesn’t mean it represents the most promising path forward for many young athletes. Jacob Jones came to that conclusion the hard way, after already earning his school’s starting quarterback role.
As first reported by our Gannett partners at the News-Leader, Jones spent the fall 2016 season as the starting quarterback at Fort Defiance (Va.) High. A sophomore, he stands just 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, a frame that struggled to absorb the weekly grind of contact inherent in a high school football season. At one point during the 0-10 campaign, Jones suffered a concussion and was forced to miss time.
Perhaps even more critically, playing football on Friday nights ruled Jones out from competing on the cross country trails on Saturdays, which kept him from progressing as much as he might have liked.
Luckily, he made up for the lost time with a very strong spring, competing as part of the Indians’ track program in the 800 meters and anchoring the school’s 4×800 relay squad, which qualified for the state tournament. Jones hopes with a full fall and winter of training behind him, he can fight for a state title during his junior season.
“With my friends, I was the QB,” Jones told MileSplit. “But I had to realize that I had to think of the bigger picture. I wasn’t really liking football as much anymore. It wasn’t my sport. I really realized that I wanted a future in running.
“This is going to be the first year I will actually focus on running. I want to lower my times a lot more. I dropped a little more my freshman and sophomore year. But now, that’s definitely a big goal for mine.”
If dropping time is Jones’ goal, not having to recover from a bruising football season is a good place to start. Of course, that may have been part of the inspiration for Jones’ decision to leave football as well.
After all, in the end Jones decided he would rather have a future as a competitive runner than a football player, even if his decision makes him very much the exception rather than the rule.