Even after six seasons with the team most known for playing in the bitterly cold conditions, James Jones still isn’t a fan of snow.
Ironic considering the Green Bay Packers wide receiver always looked forward to those rare chances to see snow growing up in San Jose, Calif.
“It’s crazy. Being a California kid I used to love to go to the snow for a week or so,” Jones said. “Now, I just hate it. Anytime I see it, I just say ‘No more snow.’”
“Playing with the Packers, though, I guess I just have to get used to it.”
Dealing with the cold months of winter in the Midwest is a small price to pay for living out a dream. After all, there was a time in Jones’ life when the goal of playing professional football seemed like a long shot for a young man that grew up living in homeless shelters with his mother.
It would be football that would provide Jones with a life-changing opportunity that came with a college scholarship to San Jose State University. Providing those same scholarship opportunities to young people today is what brought Jones to Ottumwa as the most recent celebrity to participate in the annual “Celebrity Night” event at Indian Hills Community College on Thursday.
The event funds the IHCC foundation and the scholarships the foundation provides.
One of those scholarships could go to a young person that currently finds themselves looking for the same life-changing opportunity Jones was seeking less than 10 years ago.
“Giving back has always been huge for me,” Jones said. “It’s the reason I started my foundation (Love Jones 4 Kids) to help underprivileged children. That’s why I came to this event. I want to support what (Indian Hills) is doing and hopefully have a good time doing it.”
In six seasons in the NFL, Jones has experienced a lot. A third-round draft pick of the Packers back in 2007, Jones started in his very first game and caught his very first touchdown four weeks later from legendary quarterback Brett Farve.
Things have only gotten better from there for Jones, who played a key role in the Packers’ world championship season of 2010. Jones scored two touchdowns in the postseason and caught five passes in Green Bay’s 31-25 win over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XXV.
“That was an incredible accomplishment,” Jones said. “What was great about it was we did it together as a team. It was great to play a role in that. Winning a Super Bowl is something you always dream of.”
Hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy is certainly a long way from where Jones was growing up in San Jose. Jones and his mother lived in various homeless shelters before Jones finally went to live with his paternal grandmother while attended Gunderson High School.
Before he got to high school, however, Jones was sent on the path that would lead him to the life he currently lives by his Pop Warner football coach Marion Larrea. Now, as a starting wide receiver in the NFL, Jones finds himself with the opportunity to return the favor.
“I do things like this through my foundation in Green Bay and back in San Jose,” Jones said. “Wherever I can, I try to reach out and help children. I try to take advantage of opportunities like this one.”
Those opportunities for Jones include hosting two events of his own during the year. The annual “Never Think About Failure” football camp in San Jose and “Toast To Success” dinner in De Pere, Wis., raise money for Jones’ foundation.
On Thursday, Jones spoke with the crowd that attended the annual dinner, took questions and autographed several items that were auctioned off for the IHCC foundation proceeds. Those items included plenty of Green Bay Packer memorabilia, the only team Jones has played for in his six seasons.
“I told myself when I got drafted that I wanted to try and stay with one team for my entire career,” Jones said. “That was one of my main decisions during free agency (in 2011). I wanted to play with one team, so I decided to re-sign with Green Bay and make the most of the opportunity.”
Jones has certainly done that, catching 251 passes over six seasons for 3,488 yards and 34 touchdowns. Jones is coming off his most productive season, starting all 16 regular-season games while leading Green Bay to a 13-5 and a second-straight NFC North divisional title.
Jones led all wide receivers last season with 14 touchdown receptions and posted a career-high 68 catches for 784 yards. Jones finished off his sixth NFL season and second under his current three-year contract with a 15th touchdown catch in the Packers 45-31 divisional round loss to eventual NFC champ San Francisco.
“I’m a free agent after next year, so we’ll see what happens,” Jones said.
Jones and wife Tamika recently welcomed a new addition to their family — infant son James Martell Lightning Jones. Family has become a big part of Jones’ life on and off the field playing for six seasons with the only community-owned team in professional sports.
“The fans are unbelievable. They come out there and support us when it’s negative 10 degrees or ridiculously hot during training camp,” Jones said. “No matter if we’re coming of a 6-10 season or a 12-4 season, they support us.
“They love us like a family. Family definitely comes first for me.”