Philadelphia Eagles punter sees God’s hand in path to Super Bowl

| February 2, 2018 | 1 Comment
Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles punter Donnie Jones, right, celebrates with teammates in a 2015 game. Jones, a Catholic, and his NFC champion teammates will play the AFC champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA

Philadelphia Eagles punter Donnie Jones understands how rarely a chance to play in the Super Bowl comes around.

“I’ve only been once in 14 years, so it’s hard,” said Jones, 37. “I’ve tried to explain to these young guys that you don’t know when you’re going to get another shot. We’ve got to make the most of this, enjoy the week and get ready for playing the game on Sunday.”

Jones and his teammates practiced for the first time at the University of Minnesota’s new indoor football practice facility Jan. 31 in preparation for the Super Bowl Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. The Eagles (15-3) will face the New England Patriots (15-3) at U.S. Bank Stadium after battling through an injury-riddled season.

“I’ve never been on a team that’s lost so many key guys,” Jones said. “I know I hurt for those guys when I think about guys who are here and can’t take part in the game. You feel for those guys because there’s a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice put into this game.”

While he has faith in the next guy up on his team, he especially puts his faith in God. Jones, a lifelong Catholic, believes that God has guided him throughout his NFL career and vocation as a husband and father.

“All of our blessings come from him,” Jones told The Catholic Spirit. “We really are truly blessed — I have two healthy kids, (my) wife’s healthy, I’m healthy. A lot of things to be thankful for.”

Jones attends Mass with fellow players and coaches each Saturday evening before games. When home with his wife, Aubrie, and their two children, Addison and Weston, Sunday Mass takes priority as a family.

“I just think it’s an important part of your life,” Jones said.

He indicated faith in their family goes beyond an hour on Sunday as he and his wife teach their children values and “how to treat people,” in addition to praying with them daily. Setting a good example for the children also is important, he said.

“I always tell them, ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated and give thanks for everything we have,'” Jones said.

Jones grew up attending Catholic schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, beginning with St. George School for elementary and middle school. While he had a seamless trek through Catholic education, he didn’t have it that way in football.

“I played football at a young age, but I didn’t like anything about football — I didn’t like hitting, I didn’t like sweating, I didn’t like any of that,” Jones said.

He tried punting for a fifth-grade team but didn’t get the position.

“I kept practicing and practicing,” Jones said. “Eventually I played in high school, got to college and somehow lasted 14 years in this league.”

Jones attended Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, an all-male school where his football career took off. At Catholic, he earned all-state honors as a punter and then punted for Louisiana State University.

At LSU, he averaged 42.1 yards per punt and helped the Tigers win a share of the national title in 2003 as co-champs with the University of Southern California. The Seattle Seahawks then drafted Jones in the seventh and final round of the 2004 NFL draft.

His NFL career has been filled with transition — being waived six times, spending time on practice squads and going almost a decade without a multiyear playing contract. Overall, he’s been through 22 transactions. It hasn’t sidelined his faith, though.

“(I) always know that he’s going to be there, he’s going to take care of you,” Jones said of God. “That’s kind of been the way of my career. I’ve moved around with five teams. When I didn’t know things were going to work out, he always put me in the right spot. You’ve got to have faith, believe.”

After signing in 2013 with his fifth team, the Eagles, his career stabilized. He averaged 44.9 yards per punt that season, and he planted 33 of his punts inside the 20-yard line. The Eagles offered him a three-year deal in 2014.

This season, he averaged 45.3 yards per punt, and 21 of them spotted opponents inside the 20. He also pinned the Minnesota Vikings offense inside the 20 on all three of his punts in the NFC championship game Jan. 21, a 38-7 Eagles rout. He looks forward giving the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots a long field when called upon Feb. 4.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Jones said about playing in the Super Bowl. “Can’t wait.”

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  • Charles C.

    How about a follow-up? Please read it all, I found it inspirational.
    +++++++++++++++++++++
    “Super Bowl champion coach Doug Pederson’s first reaction to winning it all was, ‘I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’ Teammates echoed the same Christian spirit that has molded the Philadelphia Eagles into a unit despite season-long obstacles.

    “Coach Pederson also led the entire kneeling team in The Lord’s prayer in front of the cameras after the game. ESPN, in its online video, deleted the prayer, keeping everything else.

    “Quarterback Nick Foles, the game MVP who passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns and became the only player in Super Bowl history to both throw a touchdown pass and catch one, simply said, ‘All glory to God.’

    “Foles is outspoken about his Christian faith, too. He has begun seminary classes. After football, he wants to become ‘a pastor in a high school.’

    “Wentz, [the Eagles starting quarterback who was out with an injury] an outspoken Christian as well, showed no sign of envy. ‘God is so good!’ he tweeted after the win. ‘So proud of this team!!!! Told y’all my boy (Nick Foles) was gonna shine tonight! Well deserved my bro!’

    “Tight end Zach Ertz, who made the game-winning touchdown, took a back seat to praise. ‘Glory to God first and foremost. We wouldn’t be here without Him,’ he said, adding, ‘This team is amazing.’

    “Before the game, Ertz told reporters that following Jesus Christ and witnessing to others of His love is what he lives for. ‘Our number one goal on this earth is to make disciples (of Christ)… Football is just a platform that we have to draw people to Jesus.’

    ” ‘I was able to prepare myself for this (Super Bowl) week because I’ve been in the Word for this past year, growing in my faith,’ Ertz added. ‘Having teammates to push me each and every day…I’m able to be accountable to them…We’re never gonna let each other slip.’

    “Ertz noted he and his wife Julia grow in Christ together under his leadership. ‘Being the head of the household, the foundation of our marriage is built on the Word. Anytime you’re able to build something with that strong a foundation, you’re not going to be easily swayed. So that’s what we strive for.’

    “Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich, whose gutsy calls were repeatedly praised by play-by-play commentators, was a Christian pastor and seminary professor before joining the NFL.

    “Wentz, Foles, Ertz, linebacker Jordan Hicks, safety Chris Maragos, and tight end Trey Burton study the Bible together three times a week, and often other players join them.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++
    And, somehow, we Catholics are having trouble getting men excited and involved. Well, I welcome any Christian brother (or sister) as a powerful force and a step in the right direction.