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Catching Up With Zach Jones (’09)

MACON, Ga. – The First Presbyterian Day School Sports Information Office will be interviewing former Viking and Lady Viking athletes throughout the 2013 summer months as part of a “Catching Up With” series.

Next up is Zach Jones (class of 2009), who just completed a four-year stint as a football player for the Georgia State Panthers under head coach Bill Curry. The former wide receiver joined the Panther squad for its inaugural season in 2010 and started a game against Old Dominion in 2012. He was also named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in the spring of 2012.

During his time at FPD, Jones was named Team MVP, scored seven times and caught for over 1,000 yards despite being injured.

FPD Sports Information Director Chandler Lee conducted the interview, which can be read below.

 

CL: Thanks for being with us today, Zach. Talk about your overall experience playing football at the collegiate level.

ZJ: For me it was a dream come true. I didn’t think I would have a chance because some schools had pulled me off of their recruiting board, so I thought I wasn’t going to have an opportunity. But then, out of nowhere, Georgia State came along and the coaches liked me. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life to this point. I got to meet people that I otherwise would not have met if it weren’t for football. It was tough at times because I was a walk-on, but at the same time I learned who I was as a person because it helped me overcome adversity and disappointment. I was able to turn those (disappointments) into positive situations.

Coach Curry always used to tell us that, “football is life marked off into 100 yards.” At first I thought it was a cheap cliche, but looking back it really fits into all facets of life in whatever you may be doing. It is definitely an experience I will never forget.

CL: What are some of the things that college athletes go through that many people don’t realize and, in particular, football players?

ZJ: A lot of people think that college athletes just get everything they want, especially the football players. I’ve heard people say that we are spoiled and they get to skip class, but that is not the case. We had to earn our grades and if we didn’t, we would get in trouble with Coach Curry because he harped on grades everyday.

We tried something new at Georgia State by practicing in the morning because other schools were doing the same thing and saw an improvement in grades. We would have Monday’s off, then Tuesday through Thursday we would have to get up at 5:45 in the morning, have a team meeting at 6:30 a.m., and after that we would have condition meetings for about 30 minutes to an hour. After that, we would go out (on the field) to stretch, warm-up, and practice from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Once that was done, it was straight to class with hardly any break in between.

Class would be all day and depending on your grade situation, you would have study hall for a couple of hours at the end of the day. Some players wouldn’t get back to the room until 7 p.m., only to wake up and do it all again the next day.

Friday we would have a walk-through, either on the road or at home depending on who and where we were playing and then Saturday would be reviewing your game-plan in the morning and getting ready to hit the field that afternoon for a game. Finally on Sunday, we would have a really light walk-through practice to get the soreness out and get ready to do it all over again the next week.

It’s a grueling schedule, not everyone liked it, it was tough, and a lot more demanding than what people think.

CL: Your time at FPD was important because it helped you realize that you wanted to play football at the next level. Talk about how FPD helped prepare you for the next step of your life and your overall experience at the school.

ZJ: When I first moved to Macon my freshman year in high school, I was really nervous because I didn’t want to leave Huntsville. My best friends were there but we moved and it started off great. Everyone was very welcoming and nice, especially the coaches, teachers and friends. That was nice because it made me feel comfortable from the start.

Athletically, FPD was a lot more competitive than the league I played in in Alabama. The first sport I played there was basketball and I really enjoyed that.

I was really waiting to start football though, because that was my favorite sport and I wanted to see what that was like. Once spring rolled around, I was really excited and thought I could have a chance to play on the varsity team as a sophomore, but then during a drill, a teammate and me collided and I broke my collar bone.

When my junior year came around, I really got my opportunity to play on varsity with Coach (Greg) Moore. I got a chance to enhance my balance. I didn’t think I would be able to contribute, but I did and we made it to the semifinals of the playoffs that year.

Looking back on my senior year, I know now that God humbled me through another injury when I found out I had a stress fracture. The doctor said I had two options: try to let it heal on its own, which isn’t a guarantee, or do surgery to put a screw in to get it to fully heal properly. I decided to have the surgery because I didn’t want to risk halfway through the football season having to sit out, especially if I’m trying to go play at the next level. That was a tough and a very humbling situation watching my teammates get better knowing I couldn’t be out there getting better with them.

I didn’t question my faith, but I was somewhat upset and confused as to why this was happening at this time. Thankfully, Coach Moore and my parents helped me get through it.

I kept trusting God, kept talking to Coach Moore in hopes that something would come available even though I had been taken off the recruiting board for some teams. And lo and behold, Georgia State gave me chance. It was random but at the same time it wasn’t because all the pieces just fell together. I didn’t care if it was scholarship or a walk-on. I just wanted to play.

But the reason I chose to go to FPD was because of how strong the school is spiritually. Everyone is welcoming. The whole staff genuinely tries to do everything the way Christ wants them to do it to please God.

CL: You play football and graduate from Georgia State. What was your degree in and what are you planning to do next?

ZJ: I graduated on time (Laughs). That was a goal that I had set even though I didn’t know that I had to prepare more in advance for exams in college. I graduated with a degree in Marketing on May 11. I like sales and advertising and I was looking for marketing jobs and applying for different positions.

A few weeks later I was put into contact with Chick-Fil-A here in Macon and they were looking for someone fresh out of college who they could mold and train to be an operator. I called them, set up a few meetings, and they told me they really liked me.

They called me back and finalized some things and the rest is history. I can’t think of a better corporation to work for because everyone is genuinely nice and sincere about how kind they are. This is the perfect place for me to work. Everyone is easy to get along with.

For my goals for the future, I would like to help open new stores to train new people. Hopefully I can do that within the next year or so. Then the ultimate goal is to one day open my own Chick-Fil-A restaurant.

Whether or not that is God’s plan – I don’t know, but we’ll find out in several years down the road. Right now, I honestly believe, just like at Georgia State, that this is part of His plan and I am along for the ride.

CL: Zach, thank you for your time. Know that we are proud of you and rooting for you!

ZJ: Thanks. I really appreciate it!

ZachJones-GeorgiaState

 

 

 

 

 

The First Presbyterian Day School Department of Athletics strives to build the student athlete both in the playing arena and the classroom while upholding the school’s mission statement to educate and equip students to change the world for God’s glory as a member of the Georgia High School Association. For more information, visit www.fpdvikings.com and sign up for up-to-the-minute news and scores by visiting www.twitter.com/FPDVikingSports.

 

Catching Up With Series:

Morgan Johnson (’09)