Christion Jones probably has one of the most interesting career arcs of any player in the Saban era. His story is one of mystery, promise,shattering expectations, and extreme role reversals. It is also one of perseverance. His story is one that many of us could learn from.
A short, stocky, speedster out of Adamsville, Alabama, Christion Jones was nothing short of a star at Minor High School. As a senior, he ran for over 1,000 yards and scored 19 total touchdowns, while also notching 57 tackles and picking off four passes. When it came time to choose colleges, Jones decided to make the 63-mile trip southwest to Tuscaloosa to play for Coach Saban.
As a freshman, Jones didn't see much time on the field outside of garbage snaps, only hauling in three passes in twelve games. However, in the BCS Championship Game against LSU, Marquise Maze went out with a hamstring injury. Who did the coaches call up to field punts against the fiercest special teams unit in the country on the biggest stage in college football: True freshman Christion Jones. He performed admirably, even returning a punt 15 yards. But it was far from the last we would see of him.
His sophomore year was when he started to become more of a regular in Alabama's offense, playing in all 14 games as the "H" receiver in Doug Nussmeier's offense. The biggest highlight of Jones' season was returning a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Ole Miss, the Tide's first kickoff return TD since 2010. Outside of a muffed punt (that somehow wasn't called a muff) in the championship game against Notre Dame, the season was relatively quiet for Jones.
And then...it happened. Christion Jones basically became a weird combination of early-2000's Dante Hall and Deion Sanders for one game against Virginia Tech. In my three years of attending Alabama football games, I can honestly say that I have never seen the student section more excited than that first punt return for a touchdown in the Georgia Dome. What a lot of people (myself included) didn't realize is that Alabama's special teams ranked #1 in F/+ for the 2013 season. That was due to four factors: Cade Foster going 11/12 on field goals before the Iron Bowl, Cody Mandell being one of the best punters in the country, Landon Collins and Dee Hart swarming downfield in coverage, and Christion Jones being an absolute demon in the return game. There were a lot of issues in 2013, but the return game was not one of them.
The arrival of Lane Kiffin saw Christion Jones' role, at least in the offense, change drastically. Instead of becoming a guy who caught 40+ passes, he became a blocker on many, many bubble screens to Amari Cooper. To his credit, he never complained. There were many times this season when he could have gone into a shell, such as after the Arkansas game. However, the next game against Texas A&M saw him shift field position on a crazy 47-yard punt return. In the SEC Championship game against Missouri, he had three huge catches on the fourth quarter drive that eventually put the Tigers away.
Christion Jones' career did not turn out the way he probably expected it. That doesn't change his impact at the Capstone. There were plenty of opportunities to mentally checkout, but Jones stuck with the program and made the most of every chance he got. He kept his nose clean, got his degree, he was loved by the coaches, and graduates a two-time SEC and two-time National Champion. What more can you ask out of an Alabama player? Good luck in your future endeavors, Christion, and, remember, we're all rooting for you!
What are some of your favorite memories of Christion Jones? Leave your responses in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading!