Big Man On Campus
By Ryan Holt
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Standing 6’4” and weighing in at a whopping 360 pounds, Holy Cross senior offensive lineman Aaron Jones is an easy guy to spot on the football field and around campus. A native of Springfield, Ohio, Jones was always one of the bigger kids. His step-father, Damon, took notice when he was in the fourth grade and pushed him to try football. However, his mother, Sonya, had other ideas. “My mom initially didn’t want me to try football,” joked Jones. “She was definitely nervous and a little worried, but my step-dad convinced her to let me play. I’d say it turned out to be a pretty good decision.”
It certainly was a good decision. Jones was a standout at Springfield South High School as an offensive lineman for the football team and a center on the basketball team. When the time came to look at colleges, Holy Cross was not initially at the top of his list. “I gave a verbal commitment to Lehigh University,” said Jones. “But, before I signed the paperwork I sat down and really thought about the decision. My family wanted me to attend Holy Cross, and after talking to people around the community, they knew more about Holy Cross because of its academics. It just seemed like a better fit and a better opportunity for me in the future.”
Holy Cross head football coach Tom Gilmore knew the kind of player the team landed when Jones decided to become a Crusader. “We were really impressed with his combination of size and athletic ability,” Gilmore remarked. “He works hard and is very serious on the field, but he has a blast playing the game.”
Jones would be the first to admit that the transition to Holy Cross was not an easy one. Having to balance a tough workload along with a grueling football schedule, Jones struggled his first year on the hill. “It was tough coming all the way from Ohio to New England,” Jones remembered. “Academics were a challenge and just getting used to the culture here at Holy Cross was difficult. But, I learned what the professors and coaches expected and pushed myself to meet those expectations. Everyone here is really friendly and supportive.”
His first season was spent as a key backup on the Holy Cross offensive line. Since then, Jones has been the anchor on the left side of an offensive line given the responsibility of protecting the blind side of Walter Payton Award candidate quarterback Dominic Randolph. Over the past two seasons, the offensive line has done an excellent job in protecting Randolph, allowing just one sack for every 36.5 passing attempts in 2007, and one sack for every 33.7 attempts last season. Randolph thanked his line in a special way last year. “Dom took the entire offensive line out to a pizza buffet after camp broke and bought us all the pizza we could eat,” exclaimed Jones. “Actually, he said he was going to do it this year, and he hasn’t yet, so I’m going to have to call him out on that!”
Not only did Randolph recognize Jones’ ability both as a pass and run blocker, the coaches around the conference did as well, naming Jones first team All-Patriot League a season ago. In 2008, Jones was part of a line that led the Patriot League in scoring, total offense and passing offense. “I have big goals and expectations for myself,” Jones said. “I was disappointed I didn’t make All-New England last season, so from a personal level, I’m definitely striving to be a better player this season.”
This year, the Crusaders elected one captain for the season, Randolph, but have elected game captains for each contest. For the Oct. 3 game against the Northeastern Huskies, the team elected Jones, an honor he took to heart. “I was humbled to be named game captain,” added Jones. “I tend to think of myself as a silent leader, a player who will lead by example. I was really shocked to be honest because, I don’t look at myself that way.”
Heading into this week’s contest with Colgate, Jones and his teammates are gearing up for what they know will be a tough game. The Raiders had the Crusaders number last year, nipping Holy Cross in Hamilton, N.Y., 28-27, to earn a spot in the FCS playoffs. The players, Jones especially, will be using the feeling after that loss as motivation for this year’s contest. “Beating Colgate would mean a lot to our team,” Jones declared. “It’s a game we have had highlighted on our schedule ever since we lost to them last season. We haven’t played excellent against them in the past. If we can just be ourselves and play our game, I know we are capable of earning a victory.”
Beating the Raiders would be a big first step for the Crusaders in their quest for the Patriot League title. Jones recognized the amount of progress the team has made over his four seasons in the Crusader uniform. “When I got here, people were shocked that we were able to go 7-4,” Jones commented. “Now, we have expectations we need to fulfill. I want our senior class to be remembered as the class that changed the face of the program for the better. To do that, it means taking the next step, winning the Patriot League title and making the FCS playoffs.”
A player of Jones’ size must maintain a strict regimen in the weight room but, Jones does not see the weight room as work. “We have a great time in the weight room,” added Jones. “I’m always excited to get in there with the guys. It’s crazy but we have a lot of fun.”
Jones is extremely active in the Holy Cross community outside of football as well. He is a member of Caribbean African Student Assembly (CASA) and Students Worldwide, an organization that uses fundraisers to help those in the local community and around the globe. His outgoing personality also made him a great choice to participate in the Black Student Union’s (BSU) annual, popular fashion show to be held later this year. “We just held our first practice last week, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Jones said.
As his senior year winds down, Jones has had a chance to reflect on his past and look towards the future. “My mom has been a big influence on my life,” Jones praised. “Although she initially did not want me to play football, she has stayed on top of me to make sure I’m doing my best and working hard. She can’t come to every game but she listens and watches every week. It means so much to me. I’m doing all I can to make her proud out there.”
He would love to test the waters in the NFL, but is keeping his options open, possibly pursuing a career in teaching. Yet, Jones remains focused on the task at hand of leading the Crusaders to a Patriot League title and a berth in the FCS playoffs.
This story originally appeared in the October 24 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Colgate. To order a copy of the program, visit the online store.