Sunday, December 13, 2015
CHRIS JONES CELEBRATED IN HIS HOMETOWN
News Channgel 9
South Pittsburg, Tenn. — Chris Jones is home in South Pittsburg, enjoying a cup of coffee Friday morning with old friends at Harvey's Pirate Drive-In.
They ask him how cold the victory douse he got after winning the Grey Cup was. "It was cold," Jones said to much laughter.
He coached the Edmonton Eskimos to championship glory at the end of last month in the Canadian Football League.
He's been in that league for 14 years, with four different teams.
All of them have won the Grey Cup. "It's been awful good to me, you know what I'm saying. The league's been good to me. I've got to meet Doug Flutie, I've got to meet Warren Moon."
He's come a long way, after growing up in a public housing apartment. Jones played football for South Pittsburg and UTC, then coached in the high school and college ranks for about 10 years. He spent most of his years at Tennessee Tech, but was also a graduate assistant at Alabama.
The story of how he made it into the professional ranks is a classic one.
While at Tennessee Tech, Jones befriended Paul Jones, the personnel director at Edmonton. Paul Jones had heard Chris Jones had a "decent eye" for talent. He was also very close to Edmonton's hall of fame coach, Don Matthews. The South Pittsburg native received an invite to come to camp as a "guest coach." Some of the players noticed his talent and recommended him for hire. He went back to Tennessee Tech and continued on a recruiting trip to Mobile, Alabama. "I was sitting at a recruit's house and I got a phone call and it was Paul. He said, 'Well, you ready to go to Canada?' Come to find out, this guy (the recruit) was the first cousin of one of the players at Edmonton." That player was one Jones had "stood up on the table for" while he was doing his guest coach stint.
His path to Canada took another favorable turn. "So the next day, I go up, we're over at Daphne High School where they have the practice and Don Matthews walks up and goes, 'It's your job, you just have to get your numbers worked out with this guy, Jim Popp,' and walks off. Jim Popp was the general manager (of the Montreal Alouettes). He comes up, offers me a contract. I take it back to Cookeville, the rest is history."
What a history it has been. In the C-F-L, he definitely found his niche as a defensive guru. He started in Montreal in 2001 as a defensive line coach. The next seven years he was the Alouettes defensive coordinator. In '08, he moved to Calgary as the defensive coordinator. Next, he took his talents to Toronto where he worked as defensive coordinator and assistant general manager. In 2013, Edmonton came calling and Jones was head coach for two years.
He lived in a hotel in downtown Edmonton. It worked well with his schedule. "You pay one bill a month and you go home, the restaurant's right there. You can grab a bite to eat, go straight up. Because I go to work at 3 o'clock in the morning and I get off at 7 o'clock at night, seven days a week," Jones said.
This week, he took that work ethic to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He will be head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations.
I asked him why he's had such success. "I never have lost, I don't think I've lost where I come from, you know I look forward to coming home, enjoying sitting around and drinking a cup of coffee with these kind of folks. I think that's probably what helps me most of all."
As the coffee and conversation wind down, friend and fellow football coach Jim Clepper put Jones' success this way. "He's our shining light. The whole town's really fired up about him. He's done, as the old saying goes, he's done good," Clepper said.
He returns to Saskatchewan Monday to put a staff together.
All of his coaches from Edmonton will go with him.
During football season, he constantly keeps tabs on Marion County, South Pitt and the Chattanooga Mocs - staying true to his roots.