It was just six short months ago when Aaron Jones said he didn’t care which NFL team drafted him as long as he got the opportunity to prove what he could do.
And in that short time, he’s gone from relative obscurity, to making the Green Bay Packers roster, to not being activated in week one, to already earning two Rookie of the Week honors, to consistently being highlighted on all the Sunday night NFL wrap-up shows.
In other words, El Paso’s own Aaron Jones has taken complete advantage of the only thing he asked for: an opportunity.
The Green Bay Packers were off last week, and Jones decided to spend his precious time off back in his hometown visiting friends and family.
“I’ve had a great time back in El Paso, being able to see all my friends and meet new ones,” said Jones, who first came on the scene as a tailback at Burges High School.
Jones – who spent his time in El Paso visiting UTEP football practices, visiting youngsters at local hospitals and granting media requests – was met with a huge ovation after being introduced before the Miners’ game with UT San Antonio Saturday at the Sun Bowl.
“Everybody has been so nice and loving this week,” Jones said. “It’s always great to come back home. El Paso will always be my home.”
Jones got his big NFL break after Packers starting running back Ty Montgomery went down with an injury in week four.
The Miners’ all-time leading rusher got his first start against his boyhood idols the Dallas Cowboys and made the most of it, rushing for 125 yards and scoring a touchdown, helping lead the Packers to a 35-31 come-from-behind victory.
When asked whether his breakout game was made more special because it came against the Cowboys, Jones was candid.
“I have to be honest, it meant a little bit more because I was back in Texas and they were my team growing up, so yes, it meant a little bit more.”
Heading into last weekend’s bye, Jones – with just two starts – had carried the ball 62 times for 346 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Jones was third in the league at 5.6 yards per carry, which put him ahead of such notables as Jamal Charles (4.7), Leonard Fournette (4.6), Mark Ingram (4.4), DeMarco Murray (4.3), Todd Gurley (4.3), Ezekiel Elliott (4.1), Le’Veon Bell (4.0) and Marshawn Lynch (3.7).
“It’s a tremendous feeling as a rookie,” Jones said. “Not really knowing what to expect and then have things work out the way they have is really special. It’s always nice to win awards, and I would love to earn a few more, but the most important thing is winning and getting to the playoffs. That’s my main goal for the rest of the season.”
The sudden national success hasn’t had much of an effect on the Jones’ household, except for the fact that it’s emptier than usual.
“Everything’s been the same at the Jones house,” said Aaron’s father, Alvin Jones Sr. “The only thing is that we do a lot more traveling now; my wife and I have been to every single one of our sons’ games this year. We’ve been to every one of Aaron’s games and every one of Alvin’s games – home and away. It gets a little tiring sometimes, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Aaron’s twin brother, Alvin Jr., is a senior linebacker with the UTEP Miners.
Asked if he was surprised about his son’s quick success, Jones Sr. was a little reluctant to answer.
“My wife and I like to stay humble so that we can keep our kids humble, but his success doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I know his work ethic, I know what kind of talent he was blessed with, and I know what kind of kid he is. The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s a blessing because it all starts with the man upstairs.
“If our boys continue to be successful while staying humble and respectful, that means that mom and dad did it right, and that they listened.”
Another family member who isn’t shocked by Jones’ early performance is the person who knows him best – his brother.
“I knew it was going to happen; I was just waiting for him to get his opportunity,” said Alvin, who was named to the All-Conference USA second-team defense a year ago. “It’s exciting to watch him perform and accomplish all his goals.”
The twins were headed toward their senior campaign together at UTEP this season before Aaron decided to forego his final year with the Miners and turn pro.
“It feels so surreal; we were playing together just a year ago at this time and now he’s on TV every week in the NFL,” said Alvin. “The only thing that would make it better is if we were having a better season at UTEP.”
The Miners were defeated by UTSA 31-14 to fall to 0-8.
Aaron has gone through a little adversity of his own with the loss of all-everything quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Before his quarterback’s season-ending collarbone injury, the Packers were off to a 4-1 start, but have lost their last two games without Rodgers.
“Without Rodgers, it’s going to be tough, but I’m confident we can still make the playoffs,” Jones said. “We just have to keep working hard and doing our jobs. We have to keep our heads up and keep believing.”
As far as his change of scenery to Green Bay, Wisconsin, Jones said it wasn’t the colder weather or the food or the culture that took him by surprise; he said it had to do more with size.
“One of the first things that surprised me was that Green Bay is a really small city,” he said. “You’d think that any city that has an NFL team would be big, but Green Bay is small and I really enjoy that.
“It’s real intimate and the people are very nice and the fans are unreal. They love their team and they let us know it.”
Proving he hasn’t forgotten where he came from, Jones recently flashed the 9-1-5 hand sign to the camera after emerging from his Lambeau Leap against the New Orleans Saints.
“It wasn’t planned,” said Jones, with a chuckle. “It just happened naturally.”
With half the season still remaining, Jones will continue to try to prove that all the critics who thought he was too small, slow or hadn’t played enough tough competition, were totally wrong.
The things he’ll never run out of are reasons to keep the faith.
“What motivates me every day is my God, my family and my friends,” he said. “They are with me every step of the way and I’m always with them.”