Loading...
BYH: To the city of Greenville. You spend dollars promoting uptown Greenville to draw many in. Now you want to drive...

Summers: Jones not just another kid

112016ecufootball15.jpg

ECU's Zay Jones (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the first half at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.

Loading…

By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 21, 2016

A man with rare qualities walked into his final home postgame news conference wearing a T-shirt that said, “Just a kid from Austin.”

One of the many gifts of Zay Jones, who had just played his last home football game at East Carolina and become the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions in the process, is always finding ways to remain normal, even as he does the remarkable.

The T-shirt, and the guy wearing it, represent a trait seemingly reserved for the truly exceptional. After another masterful 12-catch, 212-yard, two-touchdown game, the wide receiver seemed ready to remember who he was first and what he accomplished second.

Like always, Jones' postgame words, even with the bitter taste of a 66-31 shelling from Navy fresh in his mouth, were insightful, inclusive and as humble as the T-shirt suggested.

Jones' historic season will finish on Saturday against Temple in Philadelphia, likely amid little ECU fanfare.

The few fans who showed up for the Navy game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were witness to a typically astounding game from Jones, whose statistics and records have become as dizzying to keep track of as he was on touchdowns of 40 and 77 yards against the Midshipmen.

Not about to miss the moment were two former ECU teammates who helped lay the foundation for Jones' success. The man he passed at the pinnacle of pass-catchers, Atlanta Falcons receiver Justin Hardy, and all-time ECU leading passer Shane Carden, now with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL, continued to be strong team ambassadors with their presence at the game.

Jones' record season happening with a team that will be hard-pressed to finish with more than three wins makes the feat even tougher to imagine.

As his numbers have progressed — Jones will go to Philly nearing the NCAA single-season mark for receptions with a nation-best 151 catches and 1,685 yards to go with his eight touchdowns — the 3-8 Pirates have regressed, losing eight of their last nine after an auspicious 2-0 start.

As much as Carden and Hardy are forever linked with Jones, the guys on the sideline Saturday got to finish their careers in a bowl game against Florida after three straight winning seasons, but Jones is forced to settle for no bowls and eight total wins to date in two final losing seasons.

There is much to fix in the post-Jones ECU era for head coach Scottie Montgomery, who next season won't have an NCAA record to help pad the fall, only the record tallied by wins and losses.

Jones has helped his one-year coach substantially by making sure there are two ECU receivers in the NCAA record book, and soon another one in the NFL, too, with which to entice much-needed recruits.

The record rampage of Jones on a three-win team shows just how much help is needed in other areas of the team, particularly its front lines.

His weekly version of amazing wasn't enough for ECU on most days this season. His legacy will not only be tough to replace, but can't even be fully calculated yet.

At the end of a day that fittingly started out bathed in sunshine, mid-70s temperatures and NCAA football records and ended in howling, stiff wind, Jones strode one last time across his debris-strewn home field like the final scene in a futuristic, end-of-days football flick.

Before the mild-mannered Texan rides off into the sunset and the credits roll, Jones will spend 60 more minutes adding to a college football legacy that stands on its own, apart from the feats of his football-star father and brothers, his teammates and his sport.

The Pirates will need a lot more than just a kid to replace him.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 or follow @NateSumm99.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

ECU

August 20, 2019

No more waiting for Holton Ahlers or the rest of the East Carolina football team or Pirate fans.

With next Saturday’s noon kickoff at N.C. State getting closer and closer, first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston officially announced after Tuesday’s practice that Ahlers will be his…

082119_gdr_ecufootball-8.jpg

August 20, 2019

Quarterback Holton Ahlers led East Carolina’s football team in rushing last season with 592 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries.

New offensive principles are in place at ECU under a new coaching staff, leading to some intrigue about Ahlers and his run availability. Would this staff, led…

081819_gdr_ecumedia-4.jpg

August 19, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston described the Pirates' No. 1 center, Branden Pena, as a "tough joker" on Saturday.

The football-centric praise showed how far the relationship has come between Pena and Houston since December.

"Branden Pena is a guy that I didn't know his name…

081819_gdr_ecumedia-6.jpg

August 17, 2019

Moments of reflection Saturday brought East Carolina first-year head football coach Mike Houston back to the spring.

The physicality he saw Saturday during the Pirates' final preseason scrimmage was vastly different from the spring Purple-Gold Game.

Darius Pinnix displayed his punishing rushing…

081819_gdr_ecumedia-10.jpg

August 17, 2019

East Carolina’s football players were asked about their favorite ice cream flavor Saturday and they got the opportunity to pick on teammates, but there also were serious questions pointed their way about the Aug. 31 opener at N.C. State and the rest of an important season for the Pirates…

081819_gdr_ecumedia-15.jpg

August 17, 2019

In an exhibition match defined by defense, Jenna Dages scored the only goal for the East Carolina women’s soccer team to top VCU 1-0 on Friday night inside Johnson Stadium.

Dages’ goal came at the 45:34 mark. From there, goalie Meaghan Haley and ECU's defense helped to maintain the lead.…

082018ECUsoccer-4.jpg

August 17, 2019

Here are five East Carolina football players who have stepped up during preseason camp and will be looking to continue their momentum when the Pirates complete camp with a scrimmage Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium:

1. Xavier Smith, linebacker: Smith has kind of quietly morphed from a tight end…

111818ECUfootball-24.jpg

August 16, 2019

East Carolina’s football practice Friday morning ended with center Branden Pena snapping to quarterback Holton Ahlers in the victory formation, and then the Pirates celebrated. Kicker Jake Verity also made a 57-yard field goal during a late-game sequence.

On the day before an important…

081119_gdr_ecufootball-13.jpg

August 16, 2019

Jayda Hylton-Pelaia has played countless soccer matches in Canada and the United States, impressing plenty of observers with her fluid dribbling and defensive skills.

Her effect on American Athletic Conference coaches was felt Tuesday when she was named AAC preseason defensive player of the year,…

Jayda 6.jpg

August 15, 2019

Bruce Bivens is as vocal as ever on the East Carolina football defense, which can both excite and worry first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston.

Bivens' voice is important and it carries now in the middle of ECU's defense as he approaches his junior season and his second year as a starting inside…

081119_gdr_ecufootball-9.jpg
172 stories in ECU. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 18
        Next Page»   Last Page»