By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Calvinaugh Jones knows about challenges, and about how to respond to them positively. The offense for the Concord University football team is better off for that attitude.
The 5-foot-6 sophomore started this season slowly, gaining 99 net yards in the first three games combined.
He blew past that at West Liberty on Sept. 28, with 132 yards on 32 rushes. Then he rushed for 209 yards on 25 carries last Saturday, with two long touchdowns in Concord’s homecoming win over Fairmont State.
He touched the ball on 26 of Concord’s 58 offensive snaps, and accounted for 215 of the Mountain Lions’ 406 yards of offense.
Jones said his coaches had a talk with him after game three at Bowie State on Sept. 21, when he managed 23 yards on 10 rushes.
“After that talk, I felt like I was able to get the job done,” he said. “They really told me that they had confidence in me. ... The offensive line and the wide receivers, they encouraged me to get back on my high horse and get the job done.”
He said about his coaches, “They make sure they’re pushing you, and that you’re pushing yourself, in practices as well as in the weight room, each and every day. (The coaches are) making sure that they’re giving their all, for you to give your all, in the end of it.”
He said, “We have a good offensive line, as well as a young quarterback but a good quarterback (redshirt freshman Brian Novak). And when you have a good pass game and run game, holes open up for both. And that corresponds into a winning team.”
He said he knew he’d have a good game against Fairmont State during practice last week.
“When we practice, the scout team does a good job, mimicking their defense,” he said. “It gives our offense a good look to (show us) what we need to do to go out there and execute.”
He makes sure to thank his linemen “always,” he said. “I’ve got to give them their props. They do a great job, and I’ve got to continue letting them know that.”
In Saturday’s homecoming game, he said, “The offensive line helped by making big holes, so I didn’t have to make as many moves.”
He also relates well to his quarterback, whose hometown of College Park, Md. is near Jones’ residence in Glen Burnie.
“That’s great, being able to work with somebody like Novak, my age and coming from the same area,” Jones said. “We connect together. We click pretty well, I think, as an offense out there.”
His journey in high school began in Minnesota, followed by a move to Macon, Ga., that kept him from playing football in his freshman year. He started as a sophomore and a junior in Georgia. Then his family moved to Maryland.
“And I got right to it,” he said. In addition, he said, “The coaches did a great job with recruiting. (They) made sure they had people coming down there and watching me.”
Concord was one school that was watching, but Jones admitted, “That was one I never really had heard of. Glad I have heard of it, now, though. It turned out to be a good decision.”
He said a key factor in that decision was Concord’s Dustin Ward.
“He’s a great recruiting coach, a great overall coach and offensive coordinator,” Jones said. “He came in, the way he approached me with significant (and) memorable. He had dinner with the family, and they had trust in me to get what I needed to get done to be able to be part of the team.”
That turned out to be difficult. He was not active to start the 2012 season because the NCAA clearinghouse for eligibility put his status on hold while they sorted through his high school travels and credits.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Jones said. “They (the Concord coaches) wanted me out on the field; I wanted to be out on the field. But we got through it together, and I finally got out there and I was able to do what I needed to do out there.”
Jones saw his first action for Concord on Sept. 15, 2012, against the University of Charleston.
He said, “I suited up and I was excited to get out there. I was nervous, of course — first game. No, I didn’t start. But when they put me out there, I stayed out there. And it was a good game.”
He ran for 111 yards on 22 carries, and soon was part of the starting lineup. He talked about that dynamic.
“Competition is necessary in this type of sport,” he said. “It was like my big brother was out there, so for me to surpass him was like an accomplishment. It was a good feeling.”
From the start, he was aware that he was stepping into the halfback spot that had belonged for four years to Brian Kennedy — who gained 4,188 yards for the Maroon and Gray.
Jones said, “It’s always nice to have a goal ahead of you, and to have somebody that good before you came, is nice to have something to reach for. He set that standard high, and I hope to obtain it — if not to set it higher.”
Through the highs and the lows of collegiate football, he said, “On the field, I try to come out the same way I always do. I play for fun, really, and play for my team. I know how great it is to win; I know how it (stinks) to lose. And I know how good it feels, to celebrate a win with my family — because that’s what we are, a family.”
Through it all, he said, “My parents, they do a great job making me adjust. They raised me well. Whatever environment I’m in, I’m prepared for it, due to them.”
The Concord defense is nationally ranked. Jones sees nothing but positives ahead for his unit, and hopes the offense will be noticed for their accomplishments.
“The offense is climbing up the scale, and is going to be recognized for not only our run game but our pass game as well,” he said. “We keep executing what we need to execute and we’ll be noticed — if not by the nation, by ourselves, by Concord University — because we’re doing a job and we’re getting it done, and we’ll continue to do it.”
Every time there has been a hill to climb, Jones has leaned into the task with a smile.
Jones said, “I feel like God granted me a gift, and I feel great being able to put it into use. Every day I go out there, every game day, I’m able to give it my all, and it feels great to know I’m able to give it my all, and leave it on the field.”
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org