Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fence-Jumping Jones Walk-On from Pacific Lands in Mizzou's Backfield

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fence-Jumping Jones Walk-On from Pacific Lands in Mizzou's Backfield

Article excerpt

Redshirt freshman Jeff Jones goes from walk-on to starting fullback. If this sounds like another rags-to-riches story, that's because it is.

But don't get the wrong idea. Jones, from Pacific High, is not an overachiever. It just took him a little longer to achieve at the University of Missouri.

He could have been a scholarship player at any one of several lower-division schools, but that's not what he had been working toward.

He built his vertical jump using the fences that surrounds his family's five acres in Villa Ridge because he wanted to play NCAA Division I-A football.

The front fence is 4 feet 4 and the back fence, made of barbed wire, is 4-8. Starting in the ninth grade, Jones would stand flat-footed and jump over. On one unsuccessful try, he had to be cut free from the barbed wire.

Jones used an old tire with a rope attached to work on his strength. He would sit his little brother or sister in the tire, tie the rope around his waist and run up a hill. He did that over and over because he wanted to play at a major college.

The work paid off, but the scholarship came a little later than expected. When Jones rushed for 1,677 yards as a senior at Pacific and didn't get any Division I-A scholarship offers, he was "pretty upset." He saw running backs who rushed for only 700 yards at least getting calls.

"He was real good; it was just tough to evaluate how he would fit into our offense and where," Mizzou coach Bob Stull said. "He was the type of guy who might have been a running back, might have been a strong safety. There were a lot of possibilities, and we had more specific guys we were looking at in those positions."

Missouri told Jones that he was welcome to walk on, but he was looking for scholarship money. He came from a modest background; his mother works at a restaurant and his stepfather is a truck driver. They have six children.

Jones sent film out across the country, but still had no offers.

"I told him to go for it and we would find some way to pay for it," said Jones' mother, Beverly Vilcek.

Jones did as much as he could. He worked at the restaurant with his mother and his brother Jason, who is a walk-on at Missouri this season. …

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