When IMG Academy running back Tony Jones Jr. plays in the U.S. Army All-American Game, it will have special meaning. The 6-foot, 215-pound Jones has military history in his family and says it’s an honor to participate in the game.
“My grandfather was in the Army,” Jones said after the Selection Tour presented by American Family Insurance stopped at IMG. “So it’s special for personal reasons. And it’s an honor to play for our soldiers.”
Jones has been part of the IMG program since the second semester of his sophomore year from St. Petersburg (Fla.) Catholic. Although the Ascenders play one of the toughest schedules in the nation, they do not participate in postseason play and cannot win a state championship. The team’s season has been over for several weeks, although the possibility of a nationally televised game against a state champion from Georgia remains.
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Jones says that the experiences he’s had at IMG have prepared him more for playing football in college.
“The regime here was different, like weightlifting every day at 6 a.m., and it took a while to adapt to everything,” Jones said. “But I got used to it and it’s helped me to adjust to being away from home and be responsible for myself and my grades.”
When it comes to the lack of playoffs, Jones said the schedule and the opportunities to play against top teams outweighed it.
“We played some of the best teams in the country and got a chance to compete against top players every week,” Jones said. “We played hard teams and it was like a playoff schedule. We also played on TV a lot and that was an opportunity a lot of friends didn’t have.”
Jones says his commitment to Notre Dame remains solid and he is excited to join the Fighting Irish soon enough. He hasn’t heard of any rumors about head coach Brian Kelly exploring NFL options and says his commitment is deeper than that.
“For me, the commitment has always been about the tradition and the history of the program,” Jones said. “It helps that my dad’s family is close by so I won’t be far from family.”
Jones said he tries to respect his teammates and their recruiting process, but if someone asks him about Notre Dame, he will suggest they take a visit and see South Bend for themselves.
“I’ve talked to guys like Cesar Ruiz and Josh Kaindoh and I just tell them to take a visit and you’ll fall in love,” Jones said. “I don’t do much recruiting beyond that. Just try to get them to visit and take a look at Notre Dame.”