Roy Exum: The Beauty Of Barrett Jones

Monday, December 26, 2011 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Barrett Jones has made quite a name for himself as an All-American tackle at Alabama. He won the Jacobs Award as the top blocker in the Southeastern Conference and he was awarded the prestigious Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in all of football.

But the beauty of Barrett Jones didn’t get its holiday shine until yesterday – on Christmas - when the Memphis Commercial Appeal named him as the city’s Sportsman of the Year. That’s right, of all the male and female athletes in the sprawling West Tennessee city, ranging from pro basketball’s Memphis Grizzlies to some of the best amateur golfers and tennis players in the state, Barrett was an easy choice and football, oddly enough, didn’t have that much to do with it.

His own explanation is adequate. "I don't want to be a football player who does other things - I want to be Barrett who happens to play football," said the 21-year-old, "That's part of who I am. I love giving back. It really brings me great joy to do that."

Now let me tell you about the “real” Barrett Jones. He’s just a junior but he has already graduated from Alabama, earning a degree in accounting this August with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. He’s now in grad school as the top scholar-athlete for football in all the SEC, which is why he was just awarded the Wuerffel Trophy – the award given in the BCS to the top player in the country who combines community service, academics and athletics in the best way.

He’s been on two mission trips to Haiti. When deadly tornadoes hit Tuscaloosa this spring, he was the first Alabama player who rushed to help and the last to leave. He just allowed pie-plates filled with whipped cream to be hurled in his face to help a fundraiser for world hunger and that’s a feat in itself – Barrett is 6-foot-5 and weighs 315 pounds.

"I just want to have fun,” the humble and modest giant told sportswriter Ron Higgins. “I love college. I love being on a team and I love having friends outside of football. You have to find the fun in all this. There's so much hard work, but if you miss the fun, you're going to miss out on something special. Alabama has been a great experience. It has been everything I thought it would be and more."

How’s that at a time when some other college players are being suspended for smoking synthetic marijuana, trading tickets for tattoos, fighting in bars and – because of a court order – rendering far different community services. Barrett Jones is the best “feel good” story at Christmas you ever heard but he is also one of the most loved players on the Alabama team that will play LSU for the national championship in just two weeks.

"I think Barrett's our Most Valuable Player," said Alabama All-American running back Trent Richardson while Chance Warmack, a fellow lineman, laughed and called Barrett "just an all-around good dude."

What about head coach Nick Saban, who has watched the stellar tackle start in 39 games and win 35 of them? “Barrett Jones is probably as fine a person as I have ever had the opportunity to coach in terms of character, attitude, intelligence, willingness to give of himself to help other people.”

Barrett, whose father played basketball for the Crimson Tide and whose brother is now a yearling tight end at Alabama, gives all the credit to his mother and father. "Mom taught me to be well-rounded, to invest in school work and invest in the community, but it was my dad who gave me my athletic genes and my work ethic," he explained. "When I very young, whether it was working in the yard, or practicing a sport, he taught me how to dedicate myself to become great at it."

His teammates call him “Knowledge”
because he knows so much about so many things and they think it is hysterical that he started taking violin lessons at age three and just two years later was serenading seniors at a retirement home. “He’s a little bit of a nerd,” joked the runner Richardson, but Jones’ mother rushed to her son’s defense by saying, "Barrett was just a smart little kid, and I knew he had all this energy to learn," Leslie Jones said. "He wanted to know everything at a really early age."

Barrett took a rash of kidding when his teammates found out the bruising tackler was a violinist. “I'm glad I learned how to play violin. When you do something and want to become great at it, you practice it a lot. The violin really taught me a work ethic at a young age."

So now you can see why he doesn’t just want to be a football player who does other things. No, he wants to be Barrett who just happens to play football. “It is so important to remember who you truly are,” said the newest Memphis Sportsman of the Year.

And that is the beauty of Barrett Jones, the man, not just the All-American.

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