Northwest Rankin's Jarrian Jones will not back down from a challenge
FLOWOOD — A scar runs down Jarrian Jones’ left middle finger, a reminder of a challenge he couldn’t pass up because Jones doesn’t let anyone say he can’t do something.
The story of how Jones acquired the scar begins on a Sunday in the middle of football season in 2015. Jones, then a freshman at Northwest Rankin, relaxed at his aunt’s house during a post-church family gathering when a cousin told him he couldn’t do a backflip. Jones accepted the challenge. Forget he had never attempted a standing backflip, he had to prove his cousin wrong.
Jones leaped and swung his legs over his head. He over-rotated, and as he landed Jones thrust his left hand toward the ground. The force of the impact broke bones from his wrist through his fingers.
“I told you I could do it,” Jones said to his cousin as he rose from the ground.
Jones didn’t complain. He thought his hand could be jammed, but the next day it looked swollen and discolored. Jones and his parents, Ronda and Andrew Jones, drove to the hospital. Jones returned to school with his hand in a cast, shocking his football coaches. They asked him what happened.
“Coach,” Jones said, “he told me I couldn't do a backflip.”
Doctors advised Jones, who played on the freshman team, to sit out the rest of the season. Instead, he started the next game. He only missed one game that season, and that’s because he underwent surgery while the team played Brandon. He intercepted at least one pass in every game he played.
Three years later, Jones put on a show during a practice at Northwest Rankin. He’s a senior now and a member of the 2018 Dandy Dozen. As the team practiced, Jones commanded attention. He was not just the best player on the field, but he was also the loudest and most confident.
At one point Jones caught a one-handed, contested touchdown in the corner of the end zone and smiled at a nearby camera as he jogged back to the field. A teammate made a difficult catch and Jones screamed: “Catch! Catch!” as he stomped his feet. He talked between every play and motioned for cheers from invisible fans. When practice ended, Jones hung a golden “J” studded with synthetic diamonds from a chain around his neck.
“When he’s done (playing football) he needs to be one of two things: a sports agent or a promoter,” inside linebackers coach Rod Davis said.
Jones never backs away from a challenge, whether it’s on the field, in the classroom — he bet $5 with quarterback Jamari Jones on test scores in English class last year — or online. Around 2 p.m. earlier this summer, Jones lay in bed between one of his four daily workouts when a Twitter notification appeared on his phone. An Ole Miss fan had responded to one of his tweets and said, “What’s your commitment % this week lol”.
Jones had changed his commitment from Oklahoma to Mississippi State a day before. (He decided he couldn’t leave his home state despite his affection for the Sooners.) Jones sat up and responded.
He said: “The Percentage of Bowl Games Ole Miss Played in Last year and this year ....”
Mississippi State fans loved the response. Ole Miss fans pointed out that would be zero percent. Nick Fitzgerald provided online applause in the form of emojis.
Ever since Jones changed his commitment from Oklahoma to Mississippi State, he has promoted the Bulldogs and recruited on their behalf. Every day he calls a list of players, including Gulfport linebacker Derick Hall, Horn Lake linebacker Nakobe Dean and Louisiana cornerback Chester Kimbrough, trying to sway them to choose Mississippi State.
“State hasn't been the best team, but we can change it,” Jones said. “I would say we have the best class to come through Mississippi. Why not we be the class to change it?”
Jones wants to accomplish a lot before he enrolls at Mississippi State next summer. This season, Jones will play defensive back and wide receiver (he caught 28 passes and eight touchdowns as a junior). He wants to break every conceivable record at Northwest Rankin. He also wants to win a state championship. And you'd better not tell him he can’t do it.
“If you say I can't do something,” Jones said with a grin, “I'm going to do it.”
Past Dandy Dozen teams