Brent Jones is not blessed with the type of physique that intimidates an opponent, but the Robinson defensive end has something that can't be measured with a ruler or a scale: toughness.
A four-year starter for the Rams, Jones played the second half of last season with a fractured wrist (which later required surgery) and a broken thumb. The injuries, while painful, were not enough to prevent him from racking up a team-high 129 tackles, 11 of them for losses, and six sacks -- and then competing for the varsity wrestling team.
"I knew if I went to the doctor, they would tell me I couldn't play anymore, and I couldn't have that," said Jones, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 230 pounds. "It was painful here and there, but once you get in the game, you get the adrenaline going and the pain just goes away."
Jones is the only starter left from the Rams' 2001 team, which won the Virginia AAA Division 6 championship. And though the Rams have gone 11-1 each of the past two years, they haven't been back to University of Richmond Stadium. Jones is determined to return.
"The younger guys ask me what it was like to play in a state title game," Jones said. "I tell them it was the greatest feeling you can have. It's motivation to us to work harder in the weight room and on the practice field."
Jones won't have to carry the Rams alone. They have five other starters returning on a defense that posted five shutouts and yielded 7.2 points per game: defensive tackles Franklyn Herrera (6-2, 260) and Tommy Stokes (6-0, 205), as well as defensive backs Nick Altomare, Lucas Caparelli and Matt Mikrut.
Another asset Jones possesses: versatility. He can play tackle or defensive end, which is the position he was moved to last season. Jones prefers playing end because it allows him more freedom to make big hits, which have become his trademark. He starts at guard on offense.
Jones has a 3.8 grade-point average and wants to wrestle and play football in college. So far, he's gotten plenty of attention from Division I universities. But first things first. Jones wants to celebrate on the 50-yard line in Richmond one more time.
"That was awesome," Jones. "I'll do anything to get back to that level."
-- Tarik El-Bashir