NORMAL — There’s no reason for alarms to sound in Illinois State’s compliance office, but senior cornerback E.J. Jones feels like his college football career has lasted considerably longer than the allowed five years.
“In the summer, I would go with my dad and get up every morning and work out with college guys,” Jones said. “He wanted me to see what it was like so I would be better prepared when I got there.”
A veteran college and high school coach, Edmund Jones played a huge role in grooming his son into the most experienced — make that the only experienced — cornerback on the ISU roster entering Saturday’s 1 p.m. Missouri Valley Football Conference game against Southern Illinois at Hancock Stadium.
“He’s the most influential person in my life when it comes to football,” said E.J. “He always told me ‘this is how it’s going to be. It’s not easy, but it’s beneficial if that’s what you want to do.’ I knew at a young age I wanted to come to college and play football.”
Jones initially enrolled at Minnesota after a stellar career at Edwardsville High School. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder saw brief action as a tailback in 2006 before transferring to ISU in 2008.
In his final college season, Jones finds himself surrounded by youth. The other starting cornerback, Ryan Givens, is a redshirt freshman who spent last season at tailback. Reserve corners Marcus Harris, Matt Goldsmith and Steve Nelson are all true freshmen.
“I call him Father Time. He’s the senior of the cornerbacks,” Givens said. “If he feels we need help, he gives us good pointers. So far, all his pointers have worked for me so I go to him all the time when I need help.”
“I’ve given them some inspiration and guidance, but I’m also trying to lead by example,” said Jones. “It’s a two-way process. I want to help lead them, and they are very good listeners. They want to be good. We are working together very hard to mature as a secondary.”
Jones has two of ISU’s six interceptions this season. His eight career picks are tied for 11th on ISU’s career list.
“He’s settled down and played very solid. He’s been very consistent,” Redbird coach Brock Spack said. “We need him to continue that for our team to continue moving forward.”
Edmund Jones, currently a high school coach in Indiana whose most recent college job was at Indiana State in 2009, made sure E.J. kept moving forward.
“He was very strict on me when it came to certain areas,” said E.J. “It definitely was a big help.”
Other than at camps, Jones never played for his father. But the two keep in frequent contact.
“We call each other before every game about what to expect and talk a little football,” E.J. said. “That’s what we do. We breathe football.”