McEachern lineman’s wait to take the field pays off
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
August 17, 2014 12:02 AM | 3276 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Chandler Jones was first allowed to play football — he was too big to join the fifth-grade team — he told coaches he wanted to play quarterback. Instead, Jones was placed on the offensive line, and it’s a decision that’s turned out to have played great dividends for the McEachern senior.
<BR>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
When Chandler Jones was first allowed to play football — he was too big to join the fifth-grade team — he told coaches he wanted to play quarterback. Instead, Jones was placed on the offensive line, and it’s a decision that’s turned out to have played great dividends for the McEachern senior.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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Chandler Jones didn’t know a whole lot about football growing up.

He didn’t really follow the sport, though he did watch it from time to time on TV, seeing a few Super Bowls as a child.

Jones may have not paid too much attention to the game, but a lot of people paid attention to him.

“Growing up, people would tell me that I need to play football,” the McEachern senior said. “I have the size, and I just look like a football player. I heard that so much, that’s when I decided that I’d try to play.”

In fifth grade, Jones tried out for a local youth team, but there was one problem.

“There was a weight requirement, and I had always been big,” he said. “(The youth league) told me that I had to wait and play in middle school. I was too big. I was probably 250 pounds and 6-foot-1.”

Jones bided his time and waited for his next opportunity. He didn’t try any other sports, and still didn’t really watch football until he joined his middle-school team as a seventh-grader.

“I think I was 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds in the seventh grade, so I was still a big kid and really tall,” Jones said. “I really wanted to be a quarterback when I played football. When I stepped out onto the field, and coach asked me what I wanted to be, I said, ‘QB,’ and he said, ‘Oh, you’re definitely not a QB.’ They put me on offensive line and started teaching me, and that’s how I’ve gotten better. I’ve been there since.”

Jones has blossomed into one of the county’s best offensive guards, now standing 6-4 and 305 pounds.

“When I first put the helmet on (in seventh grade), I was really excited,” said Jones, a member of the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal Dynamite Dozen. “The first day of practice, I wasn’t used to it. I wasn’t really aggressive and it was tough. I didn’t really know the game of football. I struggled a lot. I didn’t know how to block. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to play, so it was really tough.”

Jones played out the season and returned for spring practice, when he almost quit.

“I remember we had summer workouts,” he said. “My conditioning wasn’t really good. I wasn’t in shape. I remember we were working really hard, and I came off the field, and I was really tired.

“My parents were out there, and I went to them and said, ‘I want to leave. I can’t do this. I just want to go home. I don’t want to play no more.’ My parents encouraged me and told me not to quit. Keep going and don’t stop. I was kind of mad they didn’t take me out, but I went back out there on the field, and just kept grinding and working, and ever since then, I started liking football.

Eventually, Jones’ skills, technique and work ethic caught up to his size. He’s entering third year on McEachern varsity team, and his second season as a starter.

Jones maxes out at 325 pounds on the bench press, and 460 in the squat. He earned scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Syracuse, Cincinnati, East Carolina and Kansas State, among several others, before committing to Louisville in June.

“I get after it in the weight room,” Jones said. “I can blow defenders off the ball, and when I stay low and shoot my hands, I can move anybody back. I like the contact. I’m a big kid, and I love the feeling after you knock somebody down and you’re in their face. I just love that feeling.”

Jones and Chuma Edoga, a tackle committed to Southern California, create a formidable tandem on the left side of the Indians’ offensive line.

“It’s really exciting playing with Chuma,” Jones said. “We have a good relationship. He’s a really good player, and it’s good playing against someone like that. If I mess up, he’ll teach me how to do it right. We’re a good tag team.”

Now, Jones is looking forward to his final season.

“I’m really excited about this game coming up,” he said, referring to the Indians’ opener Saturday in the Corky Kell Classic at Walter Cantrell Stadium. “I know that we have a rematch (with North Gwinnett). We just have to show everybody what McEachern is all about. I’ve heard we have the sixth-toughest schedule in the country, so that gives us motivation to work harder and harder.”
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