Recruiting Interview: Thomas and Kevin Jones
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #5

On Tuesday, March 6th, I had the opportunity to interview Virginia Tech recruit Kevin Jones and his father Thomas via telephone. Unless you have just recently emerged from living in a cave, you know that Kevin is the crown jewel of Virginia Tech's 2001 class of football recruits. A lightning-fast tailback from Cardinal O'Hara High School outside of Philadelphia, Jones was ranked as the top recruit in the country by both SuperPrep and Rivals.com.

Penn State and Virginia Tech waged a fierce recruiting battle for Kevin Jones. On January 24th, 2001, Jones gave a verbal commitment to the Hokies, and on February 7th, he followed through by signing his national letter of intent to attend Virginia Tech. Jones's signing with Tech ended a war between the Hokies and the Nittany Lions that had reportedly gotten ugly down the stretch as the Penn State coaching staff realized they were about to lose a home-state player regarded as a franchise running back.

The Hokies have never signed a player ranked as highly as Jones, and in fact, Virginia Tech is rarely on the radar screen of recruits of Kevin's stature. But nevertheless, the Hokies were successful in convincing Jones that Virginia Tech was where he wanted to be, and this fall, he will wear orange and maroon.

My goal in interviewing the Joneses was to uncover some of the inside story and shed some light on his highly-publicized recruitment. I had planned on spending roughly equal amounts of time talking to Kevin and his father Thomas, who serves as Kevin's personal strength and conditioning coach and was heavily involved in Kevin's decision-making process.

As it turned out, I wound up talking quite a bit to Thomas, and relatively very little to Kevin. Like many young men his age, Kevin was soft-spoken, shy, and gave short answers. His father, however, was very helpful, and like most parents I have interviewed, very interested in talking about his son.

I also decided to post this material as a straight interview, without attempting to turn it into a profile-type article. Since this interview is so long, I have broken it up with commentary and points of clarification that appear in italics.

It was just after eight o'clock in the evening when Thomas Jones answered my telephone call. After exchanging a few brief pleasantries, we got down to the business of the interview. "I don't want to talk about Penn State," was the first thing Thomas Jones said. But in the end, he answered every question I had for him. I guess his desire to get the truth out overcame his desire to put the Penn State mess behind him.

We began by talking about how Kevin and Thomas became interested in Virginia Tech, and I asked him about the 40 times that Kevin ran at the Florida State and Virginia Tech football camps in the summer of 2000.

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TSLX: In the spring of 2000, you brought Kevin down for a Super 8 indoor meet that was being held at Tech, on their Mondo track surface, even though Kevin was hurt and couldn't even run in the meet. Did you really just drive that far (5.5 hours) to see the track, or did you also have an interest in the football program at that time?

Thomas Jones: Well, what happened was, we watched the championship game (the 2000 Sugar Bowl between Florida State and Virginia Tech), and I told Kevin, "That school is a school you probably should look at. We want to see if this is just a flash in the pan, or if they're an up and coming program." I told him if we were going to go down for the track meet, we should check out the football facilities while we're there, and see if we like it.

TSLX: What did you think when you got there? Because I know you probably had been to Penn State a number of times. Penn State has a large facility (stadium) and a very impressive athletic program. What did you think when you saw Virginia Tech?

Thomas Jones: I liked what I saw, and Kevin liked it too. I'm not that big on big, extravagant things. Penn State, you know, it's big and there's a lot of things to do -- more things to do than in Blacksburg, I can guarantee that. But Kevin, his decision is based on going to a school where he's going to go hit the books and play sports. Anything else is out in left field, as far as I'm concerned, and I try to instill that in him. Don't worry about the parties, don't worry about the night life, you're going to go to school to get an education and to play football.

That's mainly what I saw when we got to Blacksburg. That setting was perfect, as far as I'm concerned, and I led him into that area as much as I could.

TSLX: Have you lived in the Philadelphia area Kevin's whole life?

Thomas Jones: Yes.

TSLX: Was Kevin a Penn State fan growing up?

Thomas Jones: No (laughs).

TSLX: Did he have a favorite team?

Thomas Jones: The Florida Gators.

TSLX: So that was your first contact with Virginia Tech. You went into the football office, you met Coach Ward (VT defensive backs coach Lorenzo Ward), and apparently, that all went well enough for you all to continue visiting Virginia Tech and considering Virginia Tech. The next thing that happened came in the summer. You had been down to the Florida State football camp, and you stopped by Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech camp literally unannounced.

Thomas Jones: That's correct.

TSLX: What 40 time did he run down at the Florida State camp?

Thomas Jones: It was a 4.26 forty. I want to clarify that, because a lot of people want to know what all these 40 times are that are flying around, and how they're timed.

Basically, what they do -- what everybody does -- is hand-time 40's. So a 4.26 equivalent is like a 4.4. At that time, that was good for Kevin, because he was coming off a hamstring injury and sitting down the whole track season. And he didn't do anything for rehab. So that time there was a monster time, as far as I was concerned, that he ran a 4.26 hand-timed at Florida State, which tied Randy Moss's record.

TSLX: Was that with multiple coaches timing him at the same time and averaging it?

Thomas Jones: Yes. What they do is, they have two lines, and they run two players at the same time. They have about eight coaches, four guys taking each runner. They go off your movement. So a guy says, "Ready, set go," but when you move is when they start their stopwatches.

TSLX: So, if they said go, and Kevin stood there for three seconds and then started running, they would start timing when he started moving?

Thomas Jones: Right. When I say that 4.26 is equivalent to a 4.4, that's almost like an FAT time when you do it that way, when you go off the movement. If you're at a track meet, and you're timing a guy, and they've got FAT, which is Fully Automatic Timing, when the gun goes off, there's a guy at the finish line, and he's got a device that he points at the starter's gun. And when the flash goes, the computer automatically starts counting.

So what they say is that the human being cannot pick that up that fast, so they say you add two tenths of a second (when you use FAT versus hand timing). Kevin right now can go sub-4.1 hand timed in a forty, which is like a 4.2 or 4.3 (FAT forty). He can run 4.2 forties (FAT timed).

TSLX: Then when he came up to the Virginia Tech camp, what did he run there?

Thomas Jones: He and DeAngelo (Hall from Deep Creek HS in Chesapeake, Virginia) both had the fastest times. The first time, Kevin had a 4.8-something (laughs). Everybody was like, "What the hell is this?" But they understood that we had just drove about 12 hours, sitting in the van, and he got out and he wanted to compete.

So I said, "Look, instead of making a fool out of yourself, sit down and relax." He said, "No, I want to run." So him and DeAngelo hooked up a couple of times and lined up. First run, he ran about a 4.30 or 4.31, and DeAngelo ran a 4.32 or 4.33. Then the next time, he ran a 4.29, and DeAngelo ran a 4.31.

TSLX: And how does Virginia Tech do it? Did they do it in a similar fashion as FSU, with two lines and multiple coaches timing the players?

Thomas Jones: Yes.

TSLX: What VT coaches were there?

Thomas Jones: They had the whole staff there, even Coach Beamer.

As the 2000 football season got underway, many recruiting publications, college coaches, and college football fans started to regard Kevin Jones as the top running back and top prospect in the country. His recruitment started to heat up. Throughout the fall, Kevin drew much attention, and his proclaimed "favorite school" changed often. The attention being paid to Kevin mounted to a fever pitch, much of it stirred by the open, honest, and frequent comments made by the Joneses -- both Kevin and his father -- to the many recruiting publications and services that covered Kevin from August through signing day.

TSLX: I remember reading some reports in the summer of 2000 that you and Kevin wanted to have his decision made by the end of last summer, the summer of 2000. Was that an accurate quote at the time, and if so, what made you guys change your mind and continue to drag the process out to February?

Thomas Jones: This being the first time that either one of us experienced this, we thought it would be easy. We thought that you find a school you like, and you run with it. But things just kept happening, and you have second thoughts. You want to check out this school, you want to check out that school, and it dragged on and dragged on, but eventually it did get down to Virginia Tech and Penn State.

TSLX: Overall, what did you think of the recruiting process, given that it was your first time through it? When all is said and done, was it something that you thought was an overall positive, or a negative? What kind of taste was left in your mouth at the end?

Thomas Jones: I still got a good taste in my mouth about it. It can get hectic at times, basically with the recruiting services. I mean, those guys are the ones who really hound you to get information. They run with things, they take things out of context, like the quote I made about the Big East and the Big Ten. I didn't mean it that way, but the way it came out, it was like I was dogging the Big East. And that wasn't the case.

So basically, the whole process is all right, but if it happened again, I wouldn't let the recruiting gurus take over like they did. I would pull that in a little bit more.

Note: when he speaks of his "quote about the Big East," Thomas Jones is referring to a comment he made about playing in the Big Ten versus the Big East. Here is the quote he is referring to:

Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001, Commentary by: Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals100.com:
Wednesday might be decision day for Chester (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara running back and the nation's top player Kevin Jones. "Coach Paterno is coming by the house that night, and you might just have something to report," Jones' father said. "Kevin is going to talk to coach Beamer tomorrow night. But coach Paterno is coming by the house on Wednesday, and I think Kevin might be ready to get this over with by then." Jones visited Penn State this weekend for the 11th time, and this time it was for an official visit. Jones said the Lions rolled out the red carpet for him. "It was about as perfect visit as it could be," Jones' father said. "I think the big difference in my mind is that Penn State plays in the Big Ten, and that's the big-time competition. Virginia Tech plays in the Big East, and Kevin could go there and pad his numbers against Rutgers and Syracuse. I think he wants to challenge himself every day he's in college, instead of being too easy."

TSLX: What did you mean by your comments about the Big Ten and the Big East?

Thomas Jones: When I say big time competition, I mean every week no matter how bad a team is, there is a lot of history and built-in rivalries in the Big Ten, and get ready for a war. Then I said you have that in the Big East, but not at the same level as the Big Ten, since the league (the Big East) is young. Just my opinion.

Now for the "pad his numbers" comment, I said that people would say that's the only reason he would pick the Big East. And I did mention those two schools, but Temple is the one I meant to say along with Rutgers, not Syracuse. That was my fault and I didn't mean that. That is just my opinion, but some fans would say that's why he picked the Big East over the Big Ten.

TSLX: How many calls a night were you getting at the height of recruiting?

Thomas Jones: We'd probably get twenty calls a night.

TSLX: I've seen the improvement in Kevin's SAT score (from an 820 to a 1080). How in the world did he concentrate on his school work while all this was going on?

Thomas Jones: Basically, before we got home, we would do everything we had to do before we hit the door (coming home). We would come in, and it would start. It was like they knew when we were coming in the door. My wife said just today, "It's like they know when you come in the door."

TSLX: What was the craziest thing you would say happened? Did the guys do anything like call at two in the morning, or anything like that?

Thomas Jones: No, but right at the end, though, there were calls from eleven to twelve. I would just tell the guys, "We're in deep thought, we're thinking this over, and you've got to call back later." It was like twelve o'clock, and they would still call to find out what school he was going to pick.

TSLX: Throughout the fall, quotes from you and Kevin were all over the map as far as what schools he preferred. Penn State and Virginia Tech always seemed to be on his list, but I remember Notre Dame and Tennessee popping in and out there. How much of that was serious? Did Kevin have a clear-cut favorite early on?

Thomas Jones: You just feel comfortable with a couple of schools. I felt Penn State probably was his, and Virginia Tech. And the other schools … Notre Dame, they were somewhat in the picture. A lot of our coaching staff at Cardinal O'Hara wanted him to go there, because the head coach (at O'Hara) went to Notre Dame, and being a Catholic school, they really pushed it.

But that wasn't going to sway Kevin. He had to go to school where he was going to be happy, not to please anybody else, and even if he did want to please somebody else, it was going to be me and my wife.

TSLX: There was some conjecture that you and Kevin were getting so many calls from the recruiting analysts, that at some point you just decided to have fun and just kind of jerk them around a little bit. Is there any truth to that, or were you both open and honest the whole time?

Thomas Jones: Yes, we were open and honest. The thing with Kevin is, he would take a trip, and he would always put them on top. I would say to him … we gave him a lot of free space, me and my wife. We never really questioned him about what he said to a recruiting guru when he got off the phone. We just let him handle it.

But before I knew it, when I started reading the quotes, he was always putting these teams (that he had just visited) in his top spot. And I told him, I said, "Look, I know you liked the schools, and I know you liked the visit, but don't always tell them now they're your number one school. Just say, 'Yeah, they're up there with the rest of them.'"

I like the way Eric Shelton handled it (Shelton is a running back from Lexington, Kentucky who signed with Florida State). He would always say, "This school is pretty much up there with the rest of them," but he would never say who was the leader. Kevin would always do that (name a leader). It's innocence. At the time, the last impression, that's the school he wanted to go to.

But I would always tell him, me and my wife, to wait and take the rest of his visits. Because when he went to Tennessee, he was going to commit right there on the spot.

While it is true that Kevin's favorite school changed frequently, the two constants on his list seemed to be Penn State and Virginia Tech, and indeed, as signing day approached, Jones narrowed it down to PSU and VT. Kevin took his official visit to Virginia Tech in mid-December. In the month of January, things intensified:

Thursday, January 11th: Michael Vick announces he is going pro.
Friday, January 12th : Jones makes his official visit to Penn State
Monday, January 15th: VT defensive backs coach Lorenzo Ward visits Jones at Cardinal O'Hara. Frank Beamer calls from the Hula Bowl (an all-star game in Hawaii that he is coaching).
Wednesday, January 17th: Joe Paterno visits Jones in his home.
Thursday, January 18th: Ward, Beamer, and VT running backs coach Billy Hite visit with Jones in his home.

TSLX: It was reported by Bill Roth that Kevin gave a verbal commitment to Coach Ward in early January right there at Cardinal O'Hara. Later that week, Coach Beamer paid a visit with Coach Ward and Coach Hite, and Roth wrote that Kevin reiterated his commitment then. But you guys kept it quiet until the press conference on January 24th. So that would place Kevin's original commitment somewhere around January 15th. Which means that you and Kevin continued to talk to Penn State coaches and even had an in-home visit with Joe Paterno (after Kevin had verbally committed to Ward). My question for that is, why would you do that if he had already made up his mind? Was there still some doubt there? What was the thinking there? That was when Coach Beamer was out at the Hula Bowl, correct?

Thomas Jones: Right. So I called Coach Ward up wanting to know what was going on, because we didn't hear from him. And did they know that we just got back from Penn State? So he said, no, not really, so I said, "I think you guys better get moving here and move some things up. If you plan on coming to see us, you better do it now, because I think Kevin might be leaning towards Penn State."

He came up to school, I think I called him on Saturday (the 13th), and he came to school on Monday (the 15th). And him and Kevin talked. I don't know what they talked about -- I was giving him space -- and that's when Coach Paterno's guys came that Tuesday or Wednesday…

TSLX: And that would be Wednesday the 17th, I believe.

Thomas Jones: Right. At the time, I didn't know if he had committed to Whammy (Ward) or not. But he kept saying he knew what school he was going to go to. After that meeting at the school with Whammy, he just kept telling me and my wife that. Paterno and those guys, when they came in, they wanted a commitment, and he said he wasn't ready to commit at that time.

That's when Coach Beamer and the guys came up the next day (Thursday the 18th), and he told them that he was committing to Virginia Tech. That's my understanding.

TSLX: So it sounds like Kevin did tell Coach Ward on that Monday at Cardinal O'Hara that he was going to come to Tech, but he still took the visit from Paterno.

Was your interest at that point in time just being fair to Virginia Tech and just making sure that they got their say, or did you really want to push him in that direction?

Thomas Jones: I didn't want that communication to fail and kill something that probably would be good for each side - Kevin and Virginia Tech. After the Michael Vick press conference (on Thursday, Jan. 11th, the day before Jones's PSU visit), I was hoping to hear from Coach Beamer, or somebody from Virginia Tech to see what was going on, and what direction they were going in.

We were going up to visit Penn State for a visit that weekend, and I didn't hear anything from them (Virginia Tech). I was telling my wife, "I should be hearing something from these guys, they should be calling here or something like that." And she said, "Give them a call." And that's what I did.

I was just looking out for Kevin's best interests. I didn't want to eliminate Virginia Tech like that.

TSLX: So it sounds like it's fair to say that you just wanted both parties -- Virginia Tech and Penn State -- to be able to communicate clearly with Kevin, and not have one of the schools left out just because they were not communicating with him.

Thomas Jones: I kept them abreast and I kept the Penn State guys abreast on how their school was doing, to try to keep them competitive. It was something I probably shouldn't have done. I should have just let each school recruit him the way they did. I helped out Penn State and Virginia Tech, really, myself, by communicating with them -- I don't know how other people handle it -- probably a little bit more than I should have.

But I just wanted to look out for my son. I looked at both schools, and if one of them was slipping, I would help them out, on little things, by saying, "You're doing this, when you should be asking Kevin this instead," and seeing how his reaction was. If he didn't take to it, then really he didn't want to go to that school.

And that's what I did. Because he's a little shy, sometimes he won't say anything, and I would tell the person, like Kenny Jackson (who was recruiting him for Penn State), I would tell him certain things, and I would tell Whammy certain things, he should be doing, to help in their recruitment of Kevin. And it just came out that Virginia Tech was the one he wanted to go to.

Kevin verbally committed to Virginia Tech at a press conference on Wednesday, January 24th. But this didn't stop Penn State from turning up the heat on the tailback and recruiting him even harder. In an article written by Bill Roth for the February 16th, 2001 edition of "hokiesports.com the newspaper," Ward is quoted as saying, "Penn State hammered us on our black graduation rate and brought up the class of 1995 when only Cornell Brown graduated."

Meanwhile, on Penn State Internet message boards, bitter Penn State fans started a rumor that Thomas Jones had been offered a strength and conditioning job with Virginia Tech. Roth quoted Thomas Jones as saying, "They (PSU coaches) said they had heard that Virginia Tech had offered me a job, and I told them that's crazy."

TSLX: I'm looking for clarification on something, specifically something that was written by Bill Roth. Let me read a quote of yours from an article by Bill Roth that ran in the official Virginia Tech sports newspaper:

"Penn State kept calling after that (the press conference). They said they had heard that Tech had offered me a job and I told them that's crazy. I told them their own people were making that stuff up and that Kevin wanted to go to Tech … Paterno couldn't believe it. He told me he had to be the stupidest guy on earth or that Virginia Tech had to be the crookedest program in the nation."

First of all, were you fully aware that those comments were on the record, and that was going to be printed?

Thomas Jones: Yes.

TSLX: That statement is hard to interpret, because people read it, and they can interpret it two ways. I want to give you both ways and ask you which one is correct.

When you say that Paterno said that he had to be the stupidest guy on earth or that Virginia Tech had to be the crookedest program in the nation, either Paterno is saying, "I would have to be dumb to think Virginia Tech offered you a job, or they'd have to be really crooked to actually do that."

Or, Paterno was saying, "I've got to be the dumbest guy on earth to lose Kevin Jones, or Virginia Tech has to be the crookedest program in the nation to out-recruit me for Kevin Jones."

Thomas Jones: More of that (the second interpretation). Really he was saying, he (Kevin) has got to be dumb and naïve to believe that he would like to go to Blacksburg over State College. That's more of what he was really trying to say. That's what he was saying, really. And I'm trying to think if he said "crooked." He said something in terms of, something about "things not being on the up-and-up," or something like that.

TSLX: Do you think Paterno was very upset and was saying some things he would regret?

Thomas Jones: Yeah, he was pretty upset, because they put a lot of time into Kevin, trying to get him there. And then to lose him to Tech, he was probably saying, he just can't believe he's losing him to Tech.

Basically, a lot of people just don't believe that he's going to Virginia Tech. It's not an upper-echelon program, is what they're saying. They don't think Tech is a top-tier program where they feel Kevin should be. A lot of people think he should be at Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, these Big Ten schools. They cannot get over that he's going to Virginia Tech.

TSLX: During the recruiting process, did Virginia Tech ever say anything negative about other schools while they were recruiting Kevin?

Thomas Jones: Never. Virginia Tech was straight up. I really felt at home with those guys. They never had a bad word to say about any school at all.

TSLX: Was that true of the other schools that were recruiting Kevin?

Thomas Jones: Yes. Virginia Tech was the butt of a lot of jokes from other schools. "The Hokies -- so you want to be a 'Hokie'?" A lot of stuff like that. But nothing really negative.

TSLX: Since the press conference, and since signing day, what has been the reaction of people there in Pennsylvania? Have they moved on, or do you think that some of the people and fans of Penn State specifically are bitter about what happened? Have you had anything ugly happen, like phone calls, nasty voice mails, or anything like that?

Thomas Jones: Nothing as far as that, but we've gotten mail. You go to the Blue and White page, the Internet site (www.bluewhite.net, an independent Penn State web site), there's some nasty stuff there. Some of the people that I was corresponding with on there in the past are saying, "Well, that's only 2% of 100,000 fans," but it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

TSLX: So he actually got a few pieces of mail that were not pleasant?

Thomas Jones: Yes.

TSLX: About how many items would you say that he got?

Thomas Jones: About five or six pieces.

TSLX: If you're comfortable answering, what kind of things did they say? Were they just venting?

Thomas Jones: Venting. Racial comments, the whole thing. He's no good, he's a punk. You know, stuff like that.

TSLX: What was the reaction from the Penn State coaching staff after Kevin verbally committed to Tech? Did you get a chance to talk to them much afterwards?

Thomas Jones: I talked to Franny Ganter (a Penn State assistant coach), and he was gracious, he was cool with it. I didn't talk to anybody but Paterno after that. He really took over. He was the one who was calling, and doing everything, and trying to get Kevin to change his mind.

TSLX: Once Kevin did verbal to Tech, Coach Paterno did everything he could in the last week or two there?

Thomas Jones: Yes.

TSLX: When was the last time you guys talked to Coach Paterno?

Thomas Jones: Tuesday night before signing day.

TSLX: How did that conversation end?

Thomas Jones: He wished us well, and he said he hoped he could play Virginia Tech down the road.

TSLX: What would have had to be different for Kevin to go to Penn State instead of Virginia Tech?

Thomas Jones: I don't know. I felt basically Kevin trusted Virginia Tech's coaching staff over the Penn State guys, I guess. That's probably what it came down to.

TSLX: A lot was made of the strength and conditioning programs. How big of a factor was that? Was that overblown, or was there truth to it?

Thomas Jones: That's big. You look at Kevin, Kevin's 216 pounds. He just won the state championship in the 60. He got the fastest time in the country in the 60-dash, and he's 216 pounds. He's run up against guys 150, 160 pounds, and he's blown them away off the start to the finish. Basically, it's from Olympic lifts, and a lot of overspeed training, and "fast squats," we call them, and Virginia Tech, they do these things. Penn State doesn't. To keep that edge, he's got to continue to do that.

He's going to be a big guy. I'm not stupid enough to believe he can continue to run these super-fast times at 225 pounds. He came up fast, he can continue to run times like he's doing now, that's what I'm looking forward to. But doing the weight training at Penn State, I don't think he's going to be able to accomplish that.

TSLX: How big do you see Kevin getting?

Thomas Jones: He'll be over 220. I don't push him to eat, he's doing that on his own now. He went from 205 (during football season) to 216 now.

TSLX: Was Tech's two-back system a positive thing when you were looking at Tech?

Thomas Jones: As far as I'm concerned. As a freshman, granted a lot of guys are saying he's the #1 back, but you don't throw a guy in the fire like that. He can work his way in. As for as I'm concerned, he's coming in for playing time, he's going to battle for playing time. Andre's (Kendrick's) spot is Kevin's to lose, as far as I'm concerned. He's in there to win that second-string spot and get some carries.

Thomas Jones was very active on the Internet while Kevin was being recruited. He was a frequent poster on Blue and White Illustrated (bluewhite.net), an independent Penn State web site that is part of the Rivals.com network of sites. It is often referred to as BWI. Jones only recently appeared on the TechSideline.com message boards, shortly after Kevin signed with Virginia Tech.

The BWI posters were very cordial with Thomas Jones until Kevin committed to Virginia Tech on January 24th. Many of the BWI posters reacted bitterly, in particular taking exception to the manner in which Kevin conducted his press conference. He showed up with a gym bag, removed a Penn State jersey from it, but then pulled off his sweatshirt to reveal a #7 Virginia Tech jersey. He committed to Virginia Tech, drawing many groans from the large crowd that had assembled at Cardinal O'Hara for the press conference.

TSLX: Let's talk about the Internet a little bit. You've been a long-time poster on BWI, as "Football Coach." And you recently registered on the TSL message boards as "Football Coach 2." What was it like to participate with and observe the posters on the BWI board both before and then after Kevin's signing with Virginia Tech?

Thomas Jones: It's like night and day. I got taken aback by some of the guys who I thought were sincere, but they were the biggest frauds to ever walk the earth. You cannot be one way and then totally be the opposite. Yes, there's some playing in-between, but you cannot go way on the other side like that. I don't care, you know, what took place.

A lot was made of Kevin dissin' the Penn State jersey. The reason why he did that was for the kids at his school, because a lot of the kids were betting on what school he was going to pick. And a couple of guys on the football team were saying, "Fake everybody out with the jersey like you was gonna go to Penn State, and then you pick Virginia Tech."

He did not throw the jersey down like a lot of people say. He picked the jersey up out of the bag, laid it on the table, said, "Not Penn State," and pulled off his sweater (to reveal a Tech jersey).

And that's something that everybody's crawling all over on that page (BWI). They're taking that and running with it. They don't want to see it the other way. They want to continue to use that to vent their anger. They can, as far as I'm concerned. I don't care anymore. I tried to smooth things over with some of those guys over there, but they don’t want to. They want to vent, because they're bitter that he didn't go to Penn State.

TSLX: Has that reaction changed your opinion of Penn State and the Penn State fan base?

Thomas Jones: Yeah. I'm trying to lock it all together and put them all in the same boat. I hope it's not really that way, but I've got a lot of friends who ride around and come in contact with Penn State fans. And they're all mad. So it can't just be the 2% that everybody's trying to tell me. It's not everyone, but it's a lot of people with that same attitude, like he committed sacrilege with the jersey. And it wasn't what they thought it was, that he was dissing Penn State with the jersey.

TSLX: Sounds like he was just having fun.

Thomas Jones: Yeah, that's totally what it was, for the school. At the press conference, there had to be close to 200, 300 students in the crowd. And that's what it was for.

TSLX: So he was putting on a little bit of a show for them.

Thomas Jones: Yeah.

TSLX: You didn't start posting on TechSideline.com until recently. Two questions about that. I had seen you over on the BWI board -- at the same time you were on the BWI board participating, were you watching the TechSideline.com board without posting?

Thomas Jones: Yeah, I went there (TechSideline.com) every day. The reason I couldn't post there was my Internet wasn't working at home. I was using my computer at work. I didn't want to use that email address, so I couldn't register until I got back on my line at home. BWI had no registration, and you could just sign on and go, so that's the reason I corresponded with those guys. If yours was the same way, I would have posted on your board a long time ago.

TSLX: So, the mystery is finally solved.

Thomas Jones: Yeah, I didn't get back on line myself until recently.

TSLX: Let's settle a question that often gets asked on recruiting message boards. It's very rare for either a recruit or a member of a recruit's family to be active on a message board like you were. So there's a constant debate on these boards about, "Oh, be careful what you say, because it really affects what the recruits and their families think." Is that true? As you watched the two boards, did what the fans were saying and doing sway your thinking and Kevin's decision at all? First of all, did Kevin actually look at the Internet, or was it just you?

Thomas Jones: Basically it was just me. Kevin -- (laughs) -- he just recently started looking at your board. He laughs about the negative stuff they said about me on BWI. But basically, it was always me, he never really got into it.

TSLX: Seeing various posts on the two boards, did it ever sway you in either direction, or were you able to separate yourself from what the fans were saying and just listen to what the coaches were saying?

Thomas Jones: Not really. If any board was going to sway me, it would have been the Penn State board, because they were putting up open letters begging us to send him to Penn State. And now, you know, it's the complete opposite. But on the Tech board, it was more like, "If we get him we get him, but so what? He's a Pennsylvania guy, he's supposed to go to Penn State." Which is logical.

You can't get mad when you see somebody write that, because it's the truth. They were trying to come into Pennsylvania and trying to steal the number one player in the country away. If they get him, it's all gravy. If they don't, well they tried. Penn State are the guys who have everything to lose. And I see posts like that on the Tech board, and I agree with them.

TSLX: Do you feel comfortable with how things worked out? Do you think Kevin made the right decision in choosing Virginia Tech?

Thomas Jones: Yeah, I do. Now it's up to him. Me and my wife, we did our job of getting him this far. Now it's up to him to get in there, hit the books, and battle it out. Take it to the next level.

I'm happy he made his decision, and I'm behind him a hundred percent.

TSLX: Any other comments, Coach?

Thomas Jones: (pauses off the line) Yeah, my wife wanted me to say that she was against Penn State from the start, from the standpoint that it's too big of a school, and too many parties. (laughs) She wanted me to say that.

She had a lot of input into this. A lot of people always try to leave her out, because everybody always called and wanted to talk to me or Kevin. But believe me, she had a lot of input with him going to Virginia Tech more than anybody.

She liked it down there. On our way back from Florida State (football camp in the summer of 2000), I was going to stop off at the University of Georgia, and she said, "Is Kevin really interested in Georgia?" I said, "No, we were just going to check it out." And she said, "Well, let me see Virginia Tech." I took her there, and she fell in love with the place.

TSLX: Coach, I appreciate your time.

======================================

Kevin Jones Portion of the Interview

TSLX: Kevin, I don't want to take up a lot of your time. Your dad was very helpful, but there are a few things I wanted to get your thoughts on.

First of all, a lot has been made about you supposedly hitting it off with DeAngelo Hall when you stopped by Tech for the summer football camp last year, and then again when you made your official visit in December. Did you guys really strike up a friendship? Have you been in contact with DeAngelo, and would you say you guys are friends?

KJ: Yeah, I met him last year before the camp. We met at a track meet. We talked at the track meet. We run the same events, and we were talking about track. And after that, we just kept talking. And I got his number and kept in contact.

TSLX: How often would you say you guys talk?

KJ: About once a month.

TSLX: What about Michael Vick? Did you get a chance to meet him?

KJ: Yeah, I met him a couple times. Three or four times, I think.

TSLX: There was some conjecture that you wanted to go to Virginia Tech because you wanted to play on the same team as Vick. Was there any truth to that? Did his announcements that first he was going to stay, and then he was going to go, have any bearing on your decision? Did that affect you at all?

KJ: I wasn't basing my decision off that. It would have been nice to play with him, though. (laughs)

TSLX: About a week before you committed, some time around January 17th, Coach Paterno paid his last in-home visit to you. I think at the time, Coach Beamer was out at the Hula Bowl and really wasn't available. I think a lot of people thought you were going to commit to Penn State during that visit. Yet you didn't. Tell me about that visit -- what went on that night? What kinds of things did Coach Paterno say, and what did you and your dad say?

KJ: Coach (Paterno) was just trying to sell the school and the program. We wanted to wait because Coach Beamer called (from the Hula Bowl) and asked could we wait for him to visit. So we waited for him to come and visit first.

TSLX: Was Coach Paterno trying to get a commitment out of you that night?

KJ: Yeah, he was trying, but I just told him I wasn't ready yet.

TSLX: Shortly thereafter, Coach Beamer came back from Hawaii, and he and Coach Hite and Coach Ward came to visit you. Now what happened during that visit? Did you verbally commit to Tech that night?

KJ: Yes.

TSLX: Had you committed to Coach Ward before, at school?

KJ: Yes. I told him I might be (coming to Virginia Tech).

TSLX: Did your dad know what you were going to do?

KJ: Not really.

TSLX: You were keeping it a secret from him?

KJ: No. I didn't know, really.

TSLX: So right up there until the end, before your press conference, you really weren't sure?

KJ: Yep.

TSLX: What kinds of things were looking good to you about Penn State at that time?

KJ: I had been there so many times, and had gotten comfortable there, and it was close to home.

TSLX: What kinds of things did you like about Virginia Tech at that time?

KJ: I was comfortable with the coaches. I had been there a lot of times too, and I just liked the program, overall.

TSLX: What finally swung you over to Virginia Tech? What made the decision for you?

KJ: I came home from my Penn State visit, and me and my parents were talking about it, and that's when I decided.

TSLX: How big of a factor did the track facilities at Virginia Tech play in your decision? Do you plan on running track when you're there?

KJ: Yeah, I plan on running track when I'm there.

TSLX: What is the latest on your qualifying status? From what I understand, you've got the GPA and the SAT score, correct?

KJ: Yep.

TSLX: Is it true that you raised your SAT score from 820 to 1080?

KJ: Yeah.

TSLX: How did you go about that? Did you take some courses and get some tutoring?

KJ: I had two prep courses and two tutors. I had a regular math teacher as a tutor.

TSLX: Have you cleared the NCAA clearing house yet?

KJ: I'm waiting for the papers to come.

TSLX: Lastly, the question that all Tech fans are dying to know the answer to: do you think you're going to wear the #7 jersey, or pick a different number?

KJ: It's between that and 30 right now.

TSLX: What's special about 30?

KJ: That was my first high school number, and then I wore 2. And Ronyell's got 2. (laughs)

TSLX: Thank you, Kevin.

KJ: No problem.

 

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