By: Isha “Ice” Cole
The National Football League (NFL) is an over 30 billion dollar corporation, with each team franchise valuing at an average of 1.043 billion dollars in 2009. The NFL serves as the employer of over 1,500 players and is a form of entertainment for many men, women, and some children, primarily in North America.
For many young football players in Pop Warner, high school and college, the vision of playing in the NFL is what they all wish to see, but it’s not easily achieved. Hard work, diligence, determination, and yes talent, are a few key factors that will help them towards that goal.
Virginia native and NFL star Running Back Thomas Jones is an 11-year pro. He has over 50 career touchdowns, 9,217 rushing yards, and 1,858 receiving yards. He has been on five different NFL teams, including Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, and now the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jones came from one of the smallest towns in Virginia, Big Stone Gap, where dreams like going to the NFL may have not seemed attainable, but it did not stop him from aiming high. These days, keeping up with the Jones’s can be a little tough, since they can boast two NFL stars in their family tree. Julius Jones of the Seattle Seahawks is Thomas’ younger brother, and Thomas says that when he’s watching Julius play, he gets antsy for him to do well.
While many sports players get caught up in the glamorous life with occasional trouble and run-ins with the law, Thomas Jones remains low-key and humble. Jones was and is a dream chaser, and while he reached a peak where most would choose to slow down, he refuses to settle and keeps pushing.
UrbLife.com spoke with the 31-year-old star athlete about his new move to Kansas City, his investments, new ventures and reasons for going back to school to earn his Masters Degree.
You were recently picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. How difficult is to make these moves and transition to a new area?
TJ: It’s not really difficult for me because this is my fifth team, so I’m used to it. I’ve been in the NFL for 11 years and I’ve moved from one team to the next, many times, so it’s not really difficult. The hardest part is moving the stuff out of your house; moving your clothes and all your personal stuff out of your place. You don’t have an actual permanent residence. Other than that, coming here for me is a good move – I’m in a really good situation. I’m been receiving good support here from the players and coaches. I’m just looking to build on my experience and do hard work.
Out of all the teams that you played for, what location did you like the best?
TJ: It’s kind of hard, because every one of them had something about it that I liked. I played in Arizona for three years, Arizona is a nice state, and Phoenix is a nice city. The environment and atmosphere were something totally different from anything I’d ever seen coming from Virginia where everything is green. Out there, everything is brown. At first it was a little tough for me to adjust, but then I started to appreciate it; I started to like it.
Chicago has a totally different feel to it. Besides the cold weather, it’s just a really great city. It’s unique, it has its own kind of style. I played in Tampa Bay, Florida – being in the warm weather was nice. Every morning waking up to the sun… I liked being by the ocean.
New York is a big city, a lot going on, a lot to do, many opportunities to take advantage of too. Now I’m in Kansas City. It’s a whole different feel in the middle of the country – somewhere I’ve never really been – and I’m looking forward to the experience.
Football, like any other job, will come to an end – eventually you’ll retire. What do you imagine your life being like after football? Where would you settle down?
TJ: I’m looking forward to living in Miami, that’s where my permanent residence is located. Right now I have an independent record label called Outta Pocket Entertainment. I have a singer from Atlanta, Georgia named Myko, and an artist from Columbus, so I’m working with those two. We were actually signed with SRC/Universal with Myko, but it didn’t work out unfortunately. Now we’re looking at different labels, trying to get some things going.
I just sign to Wilhelmina Sports out of New York for sports marketing [representation]. I’m also signed to William Morris Endeavor, so they’re pitching me for acting gigs and some modeling stuff. So I have a lot of stuff going on right now!
What happened with the deal with Universal?
TJ: You know it was just a business move; we got out of the deal last year. It just wasn’t a good situation for us; it was kind of tough with the way things were going. With Universal, that was just a single deal, we had a single that we were working call “Give It to You” featuring Young Joc. It was taking off on radio. But we’re in a whole different ball game now, we’re trying to take it to the next level. I have a producer, Moe from Atlanta, and he’s worked with a lot of different people.
I’m sure you’ve been listening to Hip Hop in R&B for quite sometime, and a lot of people have more appreciation for the music that we had in the past. What do you say to your artists about creating music with substance and not becoming a victim of today’s commercialized industry?
TJ: Well, I think substance always wins at the end. Someone’s always going to need to hear a song that pertains to them. Everybody’s not popping bottles, drinking champagne and riding on 22-inch rims. That’s not reality for everyone, but everyone does go through relationship problems, everyone goes through a struggle, whether it’s in the streets or with a girlfriend. People are always going to go through those kinds of situations and they need that music to help them get through it or help them understand the situation.
That’s what my artists do, real artists, they write their own music, and they give different music. I grew up in the country in Virginia; I used to listen to soft rock, country music, rock n roll, and heavy metal. I listen to all different types of music, but soft rock might be my favorite genre of music. Where I grew up we didn’t have many radio stations to listen too, so I was forced to listen to that type of music. I really enjoyed it because of what was being said in a lot of those songs, it was really creative. Nowadays music is not really creative, but that’s just the game right now. People will always want to hear some things that makes sense.
Nowadays there are a lot of people coming into money at a young age. Many times they are not sure what to do with it, and that often leads them to spend their money frivolously. What advice would you give them with regard to investing?
TJ: I’m with Wachovia Securities, and the guy that I use has a billion dollars in management. He’s just an amazing guy. I think the first thing for someone new coming into the game is finding a financial advisor that you could really get to know on a personal basis. It makes the relationship that much better, it makes them care that much more about your money. That’s the first thing that people don’t do. They just sign with whatever big name is out there and a lot of times they treat guys exactly same way.
Also, educate yourself; a lot of people don’t do that, so they just leave it up to their financial advisor to take care of it. Read the Wall Street Journal and those types of newspapers. The stock market, know how to read it and work the stock market. So in that way you’re up on what’s going on.
What are some investments that you have made?
TJ: I invested in a lot of stocks and bonds. I’ve pretty much keep my stuff in mutual funds where it’s pretty safe. I’ve invested in my music label. There’s Vodka called Devotion Vodka, it’s Vodka that has protein in it, which is something totally different. That’s a situation that I’m thinking about investing in. I’ve invested in the Dunkin Donuts franchise. So I’m trying to make my money work for me the best I can.
I read that you were in school trying to complete your Masters Degree. Did you complete it as of yet?
TJ: I need a few more credits for my Masters in Education – I went to University of Virginia. When I came out of college I had 14 credits over, because I took English in high school. So when I went into college I was pretty much a semester ahead of everyone else, so I was able to graduate in three years instead of four. My fourth year I was in the graduate school program in the Education school.
I’m definitely going to go back to school to finish up and get my Masters, just to have it, though I don’t have too. It’s just something that would be really good for me to do, and I think by me doing something like that it would be a really good example for the younger players. Let them know it’s cool to go to school and get your diploma. All it means is that you stepped your game up to a whole other level. That’s the other misconception, that if you’re smart you’re dumb… if that makes any sense. To be honest, the smarter you are, the more well-rounded you’re going to be.
So do you have any of the same friends that you grew up with back in your hometown?
TJ: Everyone that I grew up with, I still hang around those are my true family, true friends. You meet a lot of people along the way, but the people that you grew up with that knew you before. Those are the people that are with me now. My whole family back at home, they follow me everywhere, all my boys, where ever I go. They’ll be in Kansas City probably in the next few weeks. Where ever I am they are.
So when do you plan on settling down and starting a family of your own?
TJ: Right now I’m just playing football, I’m enjoying my life, enjoying what’s going on, and taking advantage of opportunities. I have plenty of time for that, this is a once in a lifetime situation. Once you’re done playing football, you’re done. You’ll never come back to the NFL, unless if you’re Brett Farve or someone like that. I’m just trying to play each day and every game like it’s my last. I have plenty of time to have kids, a family, which is very important to me since I come from a big family of seven kids. My mom and dad have been together for 35 years, so that’s the example that I had in front of me.
You’ve been able to stay under the radar and out of trouble, how do you do that?
TJ: You just got to be careful with how you move. You have to respect things regardless of what it is. Just because you are who you are doesn’t mean nothing is going to happen to you. I like to look at life like we’re only here for a little bit and you have to take advantage of it. So every day I try to do something productive that’s going to help me, help my family, and my friends. I’ve been around people who’ve done a lot of bad things, but they respect what I do.
Everybody’s human, everyone just has different walks of life, where they’ve come from, what they’ve seen or what they know. I respect people and I think when you respect people you keep yourself out of trouble. When you don’t respect people and you don’t respect what’s going on, then I think the chances of something bad happening are higher. For me I feel like I can go pretty much anywhere and be good because I respect people. I can go to the White House or I can go to the hood and get respect, it’s because of how you treat people and who you are.
What advice would you give to young brothers coming up right now?
TJ: If you are a Black man, you already know where you are. The odds were against me. I’m from a real small town, the smallest in Virginia. I never lost hope in my dreams; I never lost hope in what I wanted to do. I continue to work and continue to work, and if I wasn’t in the NFL then I would’ve been able to switch it up and do something else.
You got to have a dream, you have to work hard, but you also have to understand reality. Whatever job you’re doing, do it the best you can. It’s not all about what you hear in these songs and music. That lifestyle, it sounds fun and sounds cool, but a lot of people living this life aren’t happy. If I wasn’t in the NFL, from where I came from I learned how to be happy with nothing. That’s what life is about, it’s about being happy. If you wake up and see the next day, then you’re blessed.