When your father is a Notre Dame legend, played on the ’88 championship team, and went on to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers; your path goes one of two ways. You follow in your father’s footsteps and join the tradition and family that is Notre Dame, or you run screaming and chart your own path. TJ Jones decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and play football at his dad’s alma mater, and four years later it is going to be very difficult for the Irish faithful to say goodbye to this staple of the ND offense.
With the resume that TJ Jones built in high school, he could have played Division I football anywhere he wanted but he chose to become a Notre Dame legacy and play football for the Fighting Irish. Some of his high school accolades included being selected as SuperPrep All-American and 13th-best wide receiver nationally, named MaxPreps.com second-team All-American as senior in 2009 and finishing with 76 receptions for 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns as senior at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Ga.
TJ’s time at Notre Dame has been equally as impressive. As a freshman (2010) he saw action in 12 games, missing the Utah game due to an injury, and making his Irish debut against the Purdue Boilermakers. He was a starter in seven games including Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa and Miami (Fla.). He completed 23 receptions for 306 yards and three touchdowns. He was the first freshman wideout in Notre Dame history to register a touchdown in the Irish season opener and totaled 530 snaps on offense, the second most of any Irish wide receiver.
During his sophomore season (2011) Jones played in every game, starting 12 games (the only game he did not start was vs. Air Force) and set personal season highs in receptions (38) and yards (366). He caught a pass in every game and eight times during the season had three or more catches in a game. A few notable moments for TJ included a 15-yard TD pass at the Big House to give the Irish a 24-7 lead over Michigan in the third quarter, a 26-yard reception in the third quarter vs. Michigan State which helped extend the Notre Dame lead to 28-10 over Sparty and a touchdown scored on an 11-yard pass from Tommy Rees on the road at Purdue in the third quarter, giving Notre Dame a 28-3 lead over the Boilermakers.
In 2012 Jones appeared in all 13 games, starting in 11. He caught 50 passes for 649 yards, scoring four touchdowns and tied for team-high honors in receptions and receiving touchdowns (both with Tyler Eifert). With double the yards he had the previous season, Jones had some pretty impressive games in 2012. He had six games in which he had receptions for 50-plus yards which included four catches and 59 yards against Michigan State, four receptions against Stanford for 52 yards, five catches for 55 yards at Oklahoma, five receptions for 53 yards against Pittsburgh, six catches for a career-high 97 yards and scored a touchdown against Wake Forest, and rounded out his junior season with a career high seven receptions for 90 yards vs. Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
This season (2013) TJ continues to shine, surpassing his numbers from last year with two games to go in the season. So far Jones has 54 receptions for 891 yards averaging 16.5 yards per catch. His longest reception is 80 yards and he has 8 touchdowns. His 2013 season-to-date looks as follows:
|2013 GAME LOG||RECEIVING||RUSHING|
|9/21||Michigan State||W 17-13||2||15||7.5||13||1||0||0||0.0||0|
|10/5||Arizona State||W 37-34||8||135||16.9||37||1||0||0||0.0||0|
|10/26||@Air Force||W 45-10||7||104||14.9||30||1||1||7||7.0||7|
But this is what I really want to say … Thank you, TJ.
As a thank you to TJ, I’d like to pass along to him some stories about his father, Andre. Some of Dre’s teammates wanted to share with TJ some of their favorite memories of his dad to help him celebrate his Senior Day at Notre Dame. God bless you TJ and enjoy!
Notre Dame Wide Receiver, Alvin Miller
“The summer before his freshman year ‘Dre was in summer school, and we were hanging out in the hallway of the summer school dorm . I shot a bottle rocket in someone’s room under the door. Dre And I could not run away down the hallway because we were laughing so hard. Crazy times.”
Notre Dame Offensive Lineman, Byron Spruell
“From the first day I met Andre (as I was an upperclassmen when he arrived as a freshman), I could tell that he could make a difference on our team. He was clearly a top athlete who could make plays but I also saw his leadership abilities and will to win. He always had a big smile on his face and a bounce to his step. I loved his enthusiasm and the way he would say, ‘Let’s go Spru’!”
Notre Dame Tight End, Derek Brown
“One of my favorite Dre stories was during my freshman year, Dre was my ‘big brother’ and he would always visit my roommate, Troy Ridgley, and I in Flanner Hall. I think he had a class nearby. Well, this one visit last a few days, if not over a week or so. Troy and I had a 2 man dorm and Dre would sleep on the floor in the middle of the beds and of course keep us up laughing our asses off with jokes and his impression of Coach Holtz. He had Coach Holtz’s voice down cold. ‘Hell’s fire son you have to have a base when you’re blocking and a low pad level.’ Wow, I also remember he would always wear a Notre Dame sweatshirt, his fake ‘Louis Vuitton’ hat, our standard black Adidas turf shoes, a backpack and a big umbrella. I miss that dude.”
“The day he died, he was supposed to have a business meeting with a high school friend of mine that next morning in Atlanta.”
“Love you Bro!!!”
Notre Dame Safety, Pat Terrell
“I will never forget our pregame meditation relaxation sessions in which Coach Holtz would make us visualize great plays. While lying on our backs he would walk through the players speaking about the game to come. If you found yourself next to Andre, you could hear him doing a perfect impression of Holtz but putting his own dialog in. I will leave the content out but it would be so funny that I would almost bust a gut trying not to explode in laughter. I still laugh out loud every time I think about it. Miss ya ‘Dre………”
Notre Dame Quarterback, Tony Rice
“We were at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse when TJ was a freshman and we were sitting in a back room they had reserved for us. It was Dean Brown, Pat Terrell, Rod West, Andre, TJ and I. We were just sitting around telling stories, and you know how we ’embellish’ our stories compared to what really happened. At one point ‘Dre was telling a story and imitating Coach Holtz. TJ was sitting there watching everyone and listening to the stories, soaking in every bit of the stories. I watched him and I took that as a sign that he was raised the right way. Some kids come to college and think they know everything, but TJ genuinely sat there, interested, and listened to his elders. It was like King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (laughs). Boy, we thought we had it bad, but when you look back at guys like Johnny Lujack they had it worse! They had lights out at 10 pm.”
“I can never be like Andre as far as telling stories goes. He was a great player, and is very much missed.”
“This Saturday another number 7 will run out onto the field at Notre Dame stadium for the last time.”
“Two Jones wearing number 7. I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it.”
“Not too many kids can say both they and their dad played at Notre Dame and wore the same number.”
Miss ya, ‘Dre.
Notre Dame Running Back, Ricky Watters
My story of Andre Jones starts before we ever stepped foot on the Notre Dame campus. We met at the Big 33 All Star Game between the best from Pennsylvania against the best from Maryland. Andre was on the Maryland team and I was on the Pennsylvania team. Well long story short, they beat us in that game and Andre was the MVP. He was all over the field. Clearly the best player I had faced up to that point. Because we had so much respect for each other and the fact that we were going to the same University, we hit it off right away. He was one of those guys who could always make me smile no matter how I was feeling. One of the funniest people I had ever met. We even roomed together in college along with Todd Light and we have been adjoined at the hip ever since. We were forming a Sports Management Agency before his untimely death. And it is great to see TJ wearing that jersey and playing so well. I know ‘Dre is up in Heaven smiling down on him.
Notre Dame Tight End, Oscar McBride
“My favorite Andre Jones Story – On one of the first days of school my freshman year we were all sitting in the north dining hall towards the middle by the drinks (Me, Aaron Taylor, Lake Dawson, Clint Johnson, Brian Hamilton & others if I remember correctly). We usually sat as a group since at that point we didn’t really know anyone else and started to eat our lunch.”
“Out of nowhere (and I mean nowhere) Andre swoops in and begins… quickly… to take a sip out of and slam all of our glasses of juice making sure to lick the entire rim of the glass; while imitating then outside linebacker Coach Jay Hayes (who now coaches for the Cincinnati Bengals) ‘You Gotta have big leathers to play special teams…. big leathers.'”
“In honesty I think we didn’t react because of the immediate shock value of the action. I mean… who drinks someone else’s juice anyway? Good grief!”
“Then… just as quickly as he appeared to snipe our lunch and soil our accoutrements he disappeared leaving us disgusted and pissed… ‘Dammit ‘Dre!’ we yelled as he laughed and bounced out of the dining hall.”
“From that day forward everyone had to keep their heads on a swivel for the ‘Drink Bandit’ who would swoop in and take a sip from you glass and quickly dart out.”
“That was one of the many sides to ‘Dre that made him special to me. His humor and light-heartedness made things that would otherwise be intolerable easier to deal with; especially life on and off the field. Although a jokester he always had time to share an encouraging word to a freshman who was injured and bummed that he wasn’t playing. For that, I will be eternally grateful.”
“Thanks ‘Dre… love you man.”
Notre Dame Lacrosse player, Tony Suber
“To limit my favorite moments to only two, does absolutely no justice to the very large personality, always prepared to mentor, and equally prepared to prank friend and confidant that we all knew and loved, Andre Jones.”
“I first met Andre on the sidelines of a Blue & Gold game in the spring of 2002. I found out that weekend that our timely intersection was unmistakable, and for me life altering. In the span of 60 seconds I discovered that Andre was campus big brother to my cousin Ray Zellars… Once played for my native city NFL favorites, the Pittsburgh Steelers… and had made his home with his family, in the Metro Atlanta area where I made my home after graduating from Notre Dame.”
“Weeks later I had the opportunity to visit Andre at his home. I met his wonderful wife Michelle, and later the kids when they got home from school. As I was sitting at their kitchen table reconnecting and taking in life’s lessons from Andre, his kids burst into the house. With well-organized chaos each one dropped his/her book bag, told their respective school stories, and then hit the treadmill/mini-gym in the loft area above our heads. I was in shock! Thinking what is this guy doing to these kids. He’s running a factory here. In doing the math TJ would have been about ten years old then. After they finished their work out, it was on to study hall (or homework), Jones Family style. Each kid helping the other, and no one able to leave the table until everyone finished. Four hours later after witnessing the Jones Family System in full progress I ask Andre, ‘How did you get to this point?’ Andre puts his hand on my shoulder, and in the funniest Coach Holtz voice I’d ever heard he says ‘Son, if you want to be great sit here and learn… if you want to be average take your (expletive) (expletive) next door!’ I never laughed so hard… but I got the idea. Crystal clear!”
“I am most grateful for my opportunity to say goodbye to Andre at his home-going ceremony. I have many other memories worth telling but I was profoundly moved by the remarks made by his children. What we all hope to achieve in life more than anything else is a legacy of life, told through the actions, words, and deeds of our children. ‘Always have a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and everything else will be just fine…’ was the message that hit hardest. And that was Andre all the way. His smile was like sunshine. You couldn’t run from it if you tried. Nor would you want to. I never heard Andre sing, but because of his mentorship I never needed to. He taught me how to sing in my own voice. For those life lessons and memories I am eternally grateful for every moment Andre shared with me.”
“Thank you Andre… Love the Suber Family.”
Georgia defensive end, Phillip Daniels
“Andre Jones was the partner of the sports agent that I hired coming out of college (the University of Georgia) and from that point on we became very close. Our sons were close in age and our families grew close over the years. We did a lot of things together both professionally and personally. He was more of a brother to me than just a friend.”
“TJ has always viewed me as his Uncle (and I view him as my nephew), and my son DaVaris viewed Andre as his Uncle. In fact, for a while they thought they were actually related!”
“Andre was there for me any time I needed help or guidance. If I needed him to come to Chicago, he would be on the next plane. Andre was a big part of why DaVaris went to Notre Dame. When Andre heard that DaVaris had received an offer from Notre Dame he would not let up. I just wish that Andre had gotten the chance to see TJ and DaVaris out there on the field at the same time, enjoying each other, because that was his dream. Although I know he is watching them every Saturday and is smiling down on them. When we got to that point when they both had a chance to go to ND, that was his dream.”
“When ‘Dre and I were first getting to know each other, he used to talk about ND all the time. I used to give him so much crap because he talked about Notre Dame all the time and I used to mess with him … man Notre Dame sucks.”
“When we went to ND for DaVaris’ visit, saw the history and tradition of Notre Dame, I saw my son smiling and I said ‘this is nice. This is where you need to be.'”
“All of the sudden I went from hating on Notre Dame to loving Notre Dame. I talk about ND more than UGA now … Andre would be smiling if he could see me today.”
“I never knew much about Notre Dame except from what I heard from Andre and his ND friends … they’d always give me this song and dance about ‘give me 4 years and I’ll give you 40.’ They were right.”
“Everyone who knew Andre and got to meet him … became close to him.”
“I had just talked to ‘Dre the day before he passed. He and I were busy planning the new business we were starting together. He was going to be the sports agent and I was going to do player development.”
“We were brothers … friends … partners …”
“They day I heard he had an aneurysm I thought for sure he would pull out of it.”
“‘Dre was someone who gave you advice and talked to you all the time. He was real, he wouldn’t sugar coat anything; he’d always tell you the truth.”
“When I look at his family and they look at us we are one big family.”
“I’m always checking up on the kids and seeing what they are doing … his kids are very athletic.”
“He was always funny … he always had fun. When the movie Friday came out we watched it so many times and quoted it every time we saw each other.”
“One thing I have to say about ND people … once you get to know them and hang out with them you become close. Renaldo Wynn and I played with each other at Washington and we are still close today. Everyone is family.”
“I can relate a lot to what TJ is going through as I lost my father as a young man. You become the man of the family … but at the same time, as a football player, you feel like your father is on the field with you going into battle … I’m so proud of TJ and all he’s done.”
Thank you, TJ! Your dad had a personality that was larger than life and he is profoundly missed. Your Notre Dame family loves you!