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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 09/01/2011

Redskins’ Reggie Jones ‘never wavered’ from promise to his mother that he’d play in NFL


(John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
There are about 35 Redskins players or so for whom tonight's preseason game against Tampa Bay represents a final audition for a job. Cornerback Reggie Jones is just one of those bubble players. We first told you about Jones and his arduous path to the NFL last month. His mother, Tonya Jones, is currently serving time in a South Carolina prison for the murder of his stepfather, Donyea Jones. Following publication of the profile, Tonya penned a six-page note, revealing more details about her son’s journey.

When Reggie Jones learns Saturday whether he'll make the Redskins’ 53-man roster, Tonya Jones will hear the news from the same place she's followed the entirety of her son's football career.

She recalls tuning into ESPN's broadcast of the 2009 draft from inside her jail cell, hoping to hear her son's name called. Even though Jones lost his stepfather — the man who introduced him to football — and watched his mother get hauled away in handcuffs 10 years earlier, he was never deterred, always intent on a career in the NFL.

"God knows I’m grateful that my poor choices way back when didn’t ruin his life,” Tonya wrote from Graham Correctional Institution in Columbia, S.C.

Jones wasn't drafted. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent out of Portland State, joined the Redskins late last year and has been battling for a cornerback job this preseason. 

“I guess one would want to know if I’m proud of my son,” Tonya wrote. “I guess you could say so, however I’m a bit reluctant saying I’m proud of him. Why? Because that would imply that I had doubts about him and I never doubted him.”

The way his mother sees it, Jones was always destined to play football. Tonya recalls a conversation with her son a decade ago, before she was convicted of second-degree murder, while she was out on bail.

"I recall having a heart to heart with my son about his future,” Tonya wrote. “I asked him not to give up on living no matter what happens and I needed him to be strong for himself, his sisters and his grandparents.”

Just 14 years old at the time, Jones looked his mother in the eyes.

“Don’t worry, mom, I’m going to make it to the league,” Tonya recalled him saying.

“Reggie never wavered from those words,” she wrote. “Even when I got incarcerated, he said the same words. ...Reggie knew his purpose was football in the womb, because I swear that boy should have been a kicker the way he kicked in my stomach.”


Redskins cornerback Reggie Jones kisses his nine-month-old son after a morning practice. (John McDonnell - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Jones had first made his mother the promise when he was only 4 years old. He started playing organized football at age 7 and found refuge in the game when his mother killed his stepfather.

“Reggie was always so hard on himself even if he made an all-star play he wanted better,” Tonya wrote. “He saw greater potential in himself and he wouldn’t allow himself to settle for average or ordinary. Reggie saw himself as exceptional, primetime, greatness and he always went out of his way to make himself noticed.”

Jones says he doesn't harbor ill feelings toward his mother and says he is eager for her release in November 2012. He wants teach Tonya how to text message, leave her tickets for an NFL game and introduce her to her 9-month-old grandson, Dash.

“Although we all are doing this time in our own way," she wrote, "I’m glad it’s almost over, so we can live our second chance at life."

By Shemar Woods  |  10:40 AM ET, 09/01/2011

 
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