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NFL's Jonathan Jones sees mentorship as a way to serve others

The third annual Next Steps Foundation football camp this past June was held in the Pope-McGinnis Student Activities Center on the Carrollton City Schools athletic complex.

Jones: Reach youth during critical time in 'Next Steps'

In this ongoing series, we reach out to CHS alumni to learn what they are doing now that they have the advantage of experience, education and self-reflection. This month’s pick is Jonathan Jones, Class of 2012. Jonathan’s reputation borders on celebrity status as a high-profile NFL player, but not many are aware how much he gives back to others through his Jonathan Jones Next Steps Foundation. His story is an inspiring one to share during this month of thanksgiving.

EDUCATIONAL/ATHLETIC ACHIEVEMENTS:  A standout two-sport athlete in football and track & field for the Trojans, Jonathan captured three individual state titles in 110-meter hurdles and long jump, earning Georgia Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year honors before going on to win the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics National Championship in the 110-meter hurdles – all while maintaining a 3.8 GPA. These accomplishments earned him a scholarship to play football at Auburn University where he was a four-year starting cornerback. Jonathan received second-team All-SEC honors and was the recipient of the Zeke Smith Award as the Defensive Player of the Year. Jonathan would later graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

EMPLOYMENT: In 2016, Jonathan was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Leading the Patriots in tackles in Super Bowl LIII, Jonathan would become a two-time Super Bowl champion (SB LI and LIII) while appearing in three straight.​ 

HOBBIES: During the off-season, Jonathan enjoys traveling abroad and exploring new cultures and traditions. His favorite travel location to date is St. Lucia. He also enjoys spending time with his daughter and family on the lake and picked up boating a few years ago, which is now his favorite pastime. 

PROFESSIONAL ASPIRATIONS: Jonathan’s professional aspirations include going to the Pro Bowl and being All Pro in the NFL. He also plans, outside of football, to continue to grow the foundation. 

PERSONAL ASPIRATIONS: On a personal level, Jonathan plans to expand his nonprofit on a national level, continue to travel and to explore. “My dream trip is to backpack through Africa and to do the African Safari.”

WHAT DRIVES YOUR PASSION TO GIVE BACK? When Jonathan sees children, he sees a younger version of himself.  “I feel one of the most key parts of your development is having someone to look up to,” he was quoted in an interview with The Swing of Things, a sports website. “Being able to reach out and help someone take their next step is beyond just football. Everyone’s not going to be an athlete, but everyone has their next step in life. As a youth, your next step is the most critical. So, I’m just trying to intersect guys and young ladies at that point in their lives to be a positive influence.” What’s in it for him? “It feels great to be a small factor in someone’s journey of life.”

ABOUT THE  JONATHAN JONES NEXT STEP FOUNDATION: The Next Step Foundation kicked off in 2019 with its inaugural football camp in Carrollton and continues to this day. During the four-hour window, both boys and girls are coached by former collegiate athletes as well as professional athletes on agility work, drills, and  more.  

The foundation supports community involvement in Boston, home of the Patriots, as well as his hometown. Recent philanthropic efforts here at home include partnering with the Rouse Foundation to host an annual Back-to-School drive, giving away school supplies, shoes and book bags to those in need. In 2020, Jones and The Next Step Foundation donated $5,000 which covered all of the school supplies for the event. In 2021, Jones and the foundation purchased all of the school supplies for the K-8 students in Carrollton.  

UPCOMING NEXT STEPS EVENT: The foundation, in partnership with Eco Sneakers and Walmart, is hosting the Sneaker Week: Walk There Challenge. Now  through Nov. 19  you can drop your NEW and/or gently USED (not abused) sneakers at drop-off locations at Carrollton Junior High School and Carrollton High School. On Saturday, Nov. 20, the donations collected will be distributed to children in the community during a celebration in the CHS gym from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Jonathan Jones and campers together in a huddle at football camp.