Football: Craig Jones Excels in Classroom and on field for Central Modesto

A great story on an exceptional young man. A GS athlete since 2006 Craig has been impressive in the gym, football field, track and classroom.  It’s not hard to notice that this kid got it. Leadership qualities and a steadiness that escapes most of his age.  I have no doubt he will accomplish his goals as an athlete and a student. Stanford will be the one missing out if they don’t let him in and as a walk on they would be getting a steal!

Balancing act: Central’s Jones true student-athlete

By Richard T. Estrada

While many of his football-playing peers are analyzing X’s and O’s and trying to uncover weak areas in the cover-five zone, Craig Jones is busy working on a different level.

The Central Catholic senior is splitting time between his playbook and four Advanced Placement courses as he tries to earn an invite to Stanford.

If the Cardinal deems Jones acceptable, it would be merely as a student — not as a football player. He’d have to earn that distinction, as well, as a walk-on player at the school.

  • Making The Grade

    While Craig Jones’ 4.619 grade- point average ties him for first in the senior class, based on the cumulative GPA over six semesters, he’s getting plenty of academic competition from his teammates.

    Seven of Central Catholic’s 31 varsity players have a cumulative GPA of 4.0 or higher, and three others are 3.5 or higher with a college prep course load (89 percent of the 2011 graduating class enrolled at four-year colleges):

    • 4.0 or higher: Craig Jones, Garrett Ardis, Anthony Dela Nuez, Blake Escobar, Anthony Machado, Nate Loya, Kenny Smart
    • 3.5-3.99: Will Fowzer, John Mundt, Garrett Stitt

Jones has the skill to play at a college that would compensate him for his work, but it’s more than just playing ball.

“I apply for early admission on Nov. 1 and should know by Dec. 15,” said Jones, a 6-foot, 205-pounder who can fill four roles on the field for the Raiders. “I’ve been spending weekends writing college essays.”

It’s a grueling process competing against the world’s top students for a slot at Stanford — but that’s not unlike what Jones does each Friday night.

He plays middle linebacker and tailback, when he’s not at outside ‘backer or fullback.

All are punishing positions, with defenders attacking him as he runs the ball and blockers targeting him on defense.

“I’ll come out on offense for a quick rest, but I don’t like to miss plays,” said Jones, who has rushed for 664 yards and 10 TDs.

He has shown the power to blast up the middle, carrying defenders as he goes, and the quickness to change course if he sees a better opportunity.

That helps explain why he’s averaging 10.5 yards a carry, though it brings about another question: Why is Jones getting just nine carries a game?

The Raiders’ other tailback options are each averaging at least nine yards a run, and dispersing the load allows Jones to have an impact on defense.

If he does get into Stanford and earns a walk-on role, his future is likely on that side of the ball. Jones wants to be 225 or 235 pounds by June, believing that would enable him to compete for a spot at linebacker.

When Jones says his priority is “the books,” he isn’t talking about football playbooks.

His 4.619 GPA has him tied for first in his class — 89 percent of Central’s 2011 graduating class went to four-year colleges, so he’s facing stiff competition — and he passed four Advanced Placement courses before his senior year began.

Jones is taking four more top-tier courses this fall, while trying to lead Central’s program back to prominence.

“One thing that helps is I’ll spend the last 3 or 4 minutes of each class getting a start on the homework,” Jones said. “You always have a few minutes at the end where you can goof around. I use it to work.”

That doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Craig is a tremendous asset to our school,” said Wendy Habeeb, who had Jones in algebra II and AP calculus. “He is a leader intensely focused on learning, which has made positive contributions to our community. He has a unique ability to see beyond the concept and understand how everything works together.”

Which is why Jones is confident as he barrels toward the line on a trap play — he’s staring at a defender until the final moment, when one of his linemen crashes in from the side to clear a path for Jones.

“I’m real good friends with some of them, hanging out on weekends,” said Jones, in his third year on varsity. “Those trap plays, you’re counting on your linemen to be there or the defender has got you.”

It’s one of the few times that Jones hangs back and allows someone else to fulfill a task.

“He is a positive presence in the classroom because he is so motivated. He absolutely loves learning and has a joyful intensity that is contagious,” said Christine Wilde, who has Jones in honors physics. “He is creative, practical, and great at thinking on his feet … big assets in labs.”

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