KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There is no shortage of Butch Jones supporters in Knoxville as the head football coach for the University of Tennessee. Perhaps his biggest fan has spent much of his life right at Jones’ side, but this season, their relationship has taken on a new dimension.
Alex Jones is a kicker on the Knoxville Catholic varsity football team.
“Second week of the season I got my name called and it’s just been history ever since,” he said.
Alex is in just his first year playing football in high school, and as a senior, it’s also his last.
Due to a heart condition, doctors told Alex to stop playing contact sports in seventh grade, eventually asking him to quit all sports.
“I struggled just because I knew how much he wanted to be a part of it,” said his mom Barb Jones.
“I hurt. I hurt for him, Barb hurt, but he was the one who was probably the most mature about it and kept it in perspective moving forward,” said Butch Jones.
“The nurse came in and said, ‘Wow, you really handled this well. Everybody else that does this usually cries or something,'” said Alex.
That mental toughness may be hereditary. This season, the son of a football coach finally got the chance to be a player.
“He could have gone along and continued doing what the doctors told him he could do and he kept asking questions and he wanted to do something, so finally the doctor said, ‘Yes, you can kick,'” said Barb Jones.
“It’s awesome. I’d never felt that before – the Friday night lights that everyone talks about,” said Alex.
“And for me, I’ve been giddy about it because I’ve finally got a chance to be a dad, to finally be a parent, to finally have a son out there,” said Coach Jones.
“I will say that during our kids’ games, he sits back and takes it all in,” said Barb Jones.
“I like to just be a dad and just watch,” said Coach Jones.
It helps that Barb Jones worries enough for the both of them.
“I’m a nervous wreck and I just don’t need any more stress,” she said.
“Every football season adds about 10 years to your life,” the coach said.
Normally, more stress is a bad thing but this football season, it’s been just what the Jones family needed.
“It’s emotional to see him, but I think the camaraderie the he has with the players is special to me as a mom and the wife of a football coach to see your son doing that,” said Barb Jones.
“I guess it’s just kind of a blessing, because you look back and think how great this year has been, just your one year of high school football, and it’s been perfect,” said Alex.
Though it is his senior year, Alex does not plan on this being his last season of football altogether.
He will be attending the University of Tennessee next year and hopes to walk on to the football team. After college, not surprisingly, Alex hopes to become a coach like his dad.