This past season Thomas Jones, of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, reached over 10,000 career rushing yards, becoming the 25th player to do so in NFL history. Jones helped lead the Kansas City Chiefs to the #1 spot in the NFC West and to the playoffs. In addition to his superb statistics, Jones has been an exemplary teammate, demonstrating his work ethic both on the field and in his philanthropic endeavors.
Jones was recently appointed as the Spokesperson for the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration’s program called ‘’Stay Out, Stay Alive,’’ which is expected to launch this coming April. Both his mother and father worked in the coalmines of Virginia; his mother worked for 20 years on the graveyard shift while raising seven children. Thomas has chosen to wear #20 on his jersey to honor her hard work.
GlobalGrind recently sat down with Thomas Jones at our New York City headquarters to discuss his recent appointment.
GlobalGrind: How did you become involved with the U.S. Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration’s program called Stay Out-Stay Alive?
Thomas Jones: I worked with my publicist, Keith Estabrook and the Estabrook Group, and we talked for a while about me getting involved in something that means something to me; it hit home. Both of my parents worked in the coalmines. My mother worked there for twenty years. That is something that definitely hit my brain pretty hard. To be involved in the ‘’Stay Out-Stay Alive’’ campaign and having my publicist get in touch with the department of labor; it was a no brainer situation for me.
It was something that was very important to me. It was an opportunity for me to touch on something that’s not really talked about much until there is a tragedy or there is a situation where a cave man or a coalminer is trapped in the coalmines. Just to have all these people involved in what I’m trying to do is extremely special to me because there are so many kids that are growing up in the same kind of environment that I grew up in. Their mom and dad can lose their life in a coalmine at any given moment. They can lose their life in a mine shaft. These things happen all the time. This is something really important for me to get involved with, so I’m excited about it.
GG: What did your parents say when they learned you are the spokesperson for this campaign?
TJ: My parents were extremely proud and happy. I come from a town where both of my parents worked in the coal mine. Both of my grandparents worked in the coalmines. Where I’m from, it’s almost like your destiny is to work in the coalmines. I was fortunate enough to play football and get a full scholarship and get good grades while in school. I just took advantage of the opportunity once I made it to the NFL. For something like this to happen, it definitely makes my family proud, my town proud, and that’s the reason why I still play. It’s my twelfth year in the league. I have a lot of pride in where I’m from. I have a lot of pride in my town, a lot of pride in my family. To be honest, that is what has kept me ticking. Through the course of my career, there have been lots of ups and downs. I’ve been surrounded by my town and my family.
GG: What are some of your academic achievements that some of our viewers may not know?
TJ: In high school, I took Physics and English. I took college credits in high school. Going into college, I had fourteen credits. I was ahead of everyone else by a semester when I was a freshman. One day I asked my academic advisor how many classes I would need to take in order to graduate early. We went over what my major would be, how many credits I would take a semester and that was my goal, to graduate a year earlier. So, my fourth year I could be in the graduate school program. Honestly, you don’t know if you’re going to make it to the NFL or not, so I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I could to get ahead.
I graduated a year early. I think there were forty five students that came in my year to graduate, but I graduated a year earlier, so I graduated in three years. My last year, I was in the masters program. I need fifteen credits to get my masters in education. I have a Thomas Jones academic scholarship. I have thirty students in my area of Virginia, Southwest Virginia that are going to the University of Virginia with my scholarship. I give them two thousand dollars each semester as long they stay in good standing with the school. They are required to have a certain grade point average; they can’t get in trouble or anything like that. Actually, the last recipient was my little sister. She attended the University of Virginia. I have three sisters that attended the University of Virginia after me. Academics are very important for me. I would much rather be known as an educated person or an articulate person, than as just a great football player because football only lasts a certain period of time.
that’s a very important thing for me. Growing up and having my dad there as an example was very helpful. Coming from a small town, the mentality can be that the town I’m from is too small for me to do anything big. The mentality that my family had was that the sky is the limit. It doesn’t really matter where you’re from. If you want to accomplish something, you can accomplish it if it’s God’s will and you put the work in.
My dad wanted us to learn five new words a day because it was making me aware of what was going on around the world. He would take the sports page out of the newspaper on Saturday mornings after my Friday night basketball game and make me read the front page. That way I would know what was going on in the world first before I would go to the sports section. He didn’t want me growing up thinking sports was everything, because it’s not. That has stuck with my siblings and me until this day. I watch Headline news more than I watch SportCenter because that was embedded in me from an early age. That is the thing I am most proud of, which is having my college degree. I played in the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl and I broke 10, 000 yards rushing in my career. The most important piece of hardwood I have is my diploma.
GG: The Jets had an ‘’interesting’’ last season. What are your thoughts on that?
TJ: I was rooting for everyone. I made some lifelong friends over at the Jets; just like I did when I was at Arizona, Tampa Bay, Chicago and now for Kansas City. Rex Ryan and I spoke on the phone a few times trying to work something out. I had never met him before, but Ray Lewis told me at the Pro Bowl that I would love Rex and everyone in Baltimore loved him. In the offseason, as soon as Rex and I met, we clicked. We had a lot in common, same kind of personality in a lot of ways. For me to only play under him for one year, I don’t think I’ve ever grown that close to a coach in one year. I love Rex as a person, and as a coach and it’s mutual.
When I was released, the business part came in. It’s a business; you have to take the good with the bad. I don’t think a lot of people realize it’s a business before it is football. I think people understand now with the whole lockout situation. Some people are willing to not have a season over money. At the end of the day, I wish all of those guys the best. I wanted them to win. It’s just ironic because I thought we would play them in the playoffs. We ended up playing Baltimore and it looked as though we were going to play them the first game in Kansas City. I think that would have been very interesting. I had a great time in New York. I love New York City and the Jets fans. I love playing in the old Meadowlands. That was one of the greatest experiences of my life, playing in New York City and playing for the Jets.
GG: What goals have you set for this upcoming season?
TJ: I’ve never been one of those guys that says I want to run for 1,500 yards or 2, 000 yards. Whatever God’s will is going to be, it’s going to be. All I do is work hard and try to prepare myself so I’m ready when my opportunity comes. I think each year that I’ve gotten older, that’s just become more of a point of mine to just let things happen. I try to enjoy the game. Early on in my career, I had ups and downs and I kind of had a chip on my shoulder, but I think during the middle of my career I was playing in an angry manner, more than enjoying the game and enjoying the experience. I was playing more to prove everybody wrong and prove this fan or this reporter wrong.
As I got older, I realized I’m living a dream. I’ve been playing football since I was seven years old and I’m still playing, I’m 32. Since the age of seven, every fall I’ve had a football season. It’s a blessing and the older you get you start to enjoy it and understand that this is going to be gone soon. What’s gone you never get back, and that’s where I am right now. This year I just want to enjoy it. Enjoy the game, enjoy the locker room and enjoy being around the guys because I’m an old head now (laughs). Last year was crazy because I go to the youngest team in the league. I’m 32 and these other guys are like 21 years old in the locker room Dougie-ing and I’m sitting there listening to Gang Starr in my iPod. They don’t even know who Gang Starr is (laughs).
GG: Who hits the hardest in the NFL?
TJ: I don’t even remember, that’s the bad part. When you get hit that hard, you’re probably not going to remember who hit you. From 2000 until 2011 I’ve gone against people like Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher in practice every day, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. It’s hard to say. There are times when you get hit so hard and your head hits the ground extremely hard. You get up and your vision is blurry or you see stars. You have thirty seconds to shake it off, get in the huddle and be ready to play. There are instances when a small cornerback can catch you at the right angle and knock you out.
GG: Who talks the most trash in the NFL?
TJ: One of my teammates from Kansas City definitely talks the most trash (laughs).
GG: What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you at the bottom of the pile?
TJ: Guys can get really dirty at the bottom of the pile. At times, it can be personal on the field and guys take the opportunity to elbow you, pinch you and talk extra trash. What the fans don’t get to see is the personal trash talk that occurs on the field. That trash talk can either motivate you to stay focused on the play or the opponent will get in your head and get you out of focus. Football can be like chess, a game of the mind.
GG: Who’s the baddest chick in Hollywood?
TJ: At the moment, I’m focused on my career. I am growing spiritually and am just very happy right now. There are many beautiful women all over the world. However, I’m just focusing on becoming richer, spiritually.
GG: What should we expect from your label, Outta Pocket Entertainment and your R&B artist, Myko in 2011?
TJ: My artist Myko is an extremely talented R&B singer/songwriter from Atlanta. He is very tall; people always think he’s a basketball player. We had a deal with SRC/Universal, but unfortunately, things did not work out. We are really grateful for that opportunity. We are working and the music sounds great. Actually, Jason Derulo was Myko’s vocal coach for a while. Jason was traveling with us and it was just a great time. Jason got signed to Warner Music Group and blew up, that inspires Myko. We keep in touch with Jason…he’s a great guy. We also have a record with Rick Ross that’s a hit.
GG: What are your top five albums of all time?
TJ: This is a tough one. I would have to say…albums: Biggie’s “Ready to Die,” Tupac’s “All Eyez On Me,” Sade’s “Diamond Life,” Mobb Deep’s “The Infamous” and Raekwon’s “Only built 4 Cuban Linx.” I listen to all types of music like country, rock and the list goes on. My teammates call me crazy in the locker room because I play all types of music. I just encourage them to expand their mind, because although I love Hip-Hop and R&B, there is more great music out there.
GG: What are your aspirations after you gracefully bow out from playing football?
TJ: I am working on growing my endeavors in the entertainment business. I just invested in a film that is a really great project. I want to produce TV shows, movies and the list goes on. I want to provide my family, friends and the people I care about opportunities to work, to not struggle and to stay off the streets. I want to utilize my resources to provide good opportunities for them. It’s not about me. It’s never been about me.