Packers running back Aaron Jones planning end-zone tribute to his late father
GREEN BAY – He was a fixture in the end zone stands before Green Bay Packers games. Alvin Jones Sr. would arrive hours early, park himself in the bleachers, watching his son warm up.
Aaron Jones would go about his business on the field, but he always had time for Dad. Before kickoff, the Packers running back would trot over to those stands, sharing a quick moment with his father.
“I always get the look in his eyes,” Alvin Sr. told PackersNews in 2019 as his son was becoming a breakout star. “That means he’s ready to roll.”
It always made sense Jones’ father was the last person he saw before games. It was Alvin Jones Sr. who, despite an active military career, was always determined to be constantly involved with his son’s life. Alvin Jones Sr. never knew his father. His four children would.
It was Alvin Jones Sr. who taught his son the game. He coached Aaron Jones as a kid. That connection with fatherhood and football never left. Their pregame tradition was interrupted last season when COVID-19 protocols prohibited fans from being in the stands. It ended permanently last month when Alvin Jones Sr. died from complications related to COVID-19, according to the family.
With tears running down his cheeks, Aaron Jones spoke with reporters Tuesday for the first time since his father’s death. Jones stopped more than once to compose himself and paused briefly as someone off the screen of his Zoom call handed him a tissue. Fresh off signing a four-year, $48 million extension in March, Jones made clear his father’s influence will never leave him.
“The rest of my career will be dedicated to my father,” Jones said. “My dad is everything to me, never missed a game. I know it’s something he would want me to continue to do, is push forward, work hard and continue to reach the goals we’ve set, and continue to work toward that. So I’m going to continue to do that.
“I’m going to continue to honor him and wear our last names on the back of our jerseys as big and as proud as I can.”
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Jones’ grief is still fresh as he works with his team during organized team activities, which started Monday. His twin brother, Alvin Jones Jr., was in Green Bay for a tryout as a linebacker on the Packers' roster when Jones returned earlier this month, but he has since left.
Instead, Aaron Jones said he has relied on teammates and football to bring him through the pain of losing his dad.
“I have a locker room full of brothers here who are making sure that I’m OK,” Jones said. “Some nights, I’m there with them on their couch, and different things like that. That’s what this game is all about, having your brothers around you.”
Jones didn’t know this offseason would take a turn when he signed his extension with the Packers. He indicated it’s helped him to remain in a familiar place. Jones already has a support system established in Green Bay. He’s sought advice on how to cope with tragedy.
“I’ve never been doing anything like this,” Jones said. “So getting advice from people who have, or people who have gone through these things, and you see how they came out. They continue to stay positive and keep pushing forward and not let anything stop them. So just sitting down, having those conversations with them, and seeing how they got through it and what helped them.
“So, like I said, I’m thankful for all those guys in the locker room to the upstairs management who has made sure that I’m OK and just continue to check on me.”
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Jones said his father’s example taught him how to value service. He watched both parents, including mother Vurgess Jones, sacrifice during military tours that took them overseas and away from their children. Jones said those lessons made him value the role he can have in his community.
He also will keep his father’s spirit with him on game days. Without giving specifics, Jones said fans will see a tribute to his father when he finds the end zone, the place he and his dad met before games.
“I’m still going to go have my moment with him,” Jones said. “I know he’s still going to be there. He has the best seat in the house. So I know he’s up there watching me, and it’s going to be special.”
The Packers announced the signing Wednesday of wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins, a first-year player out of Penn State. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Eagles in 2019 and also has spent time with the Steelers.
On Tuesday, the Packers released cornerback KeiVarae Russell.