By Matt Czeitner
DaQuan Jones has overcome so much in life to get where he is today. His mother struggled with addiction issues and spent time in prison for attempted burglary. His family was always moving from apartment to apartment. His father, gained full custody of the children when Jones was 16, and growing up in Johnson City, New York, he saw his friends get derailed by drugs. But he stayed the course.
“You have goals and you work hard to achieve them,” said Jones.
Even on the football field, Jones faced issues he’s had to overcome. Jones signed on with Penn State in 2010. The Nittany Lions were coming off an 11-2 season. Coach Joe Paterno was a living legend. The program had a squeaky-clean image.
But by Jones’ sophomore year, things had changed dramatically. The Jerry Sandusky scandal and its ugly aftermath threw the university and the football program into disarray.
Jones, now 27, looks back at went down at Penn State during such a dark time in the program’s history.
“I hung in there. I depended on my teammates,” Jones said.
Jones stuck it out. Not everybody did.
A total of 15 players transferred from Penn State after the 2011 season when the NCAA levied heavy sanctions that included a reduction in scholarships and a four-year postseason ban. The NCAA ruled those that chose to transfer did not have to sit out a season and were immediately eligible at other programs.
Donovan Smith, a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was Jones’ best friend in college and also his teammate. He remembers what is was like during the time this all went down.
“A lot of players left,” said Smith. “It was a tough situation and not only did me and DaQuan stay, but we helped our team win games and kind of persevere through a real difficult time. It says a lot about us.”
Jones dealt with it all: NCAA penalties, the ouster and death of the head coach that recruited him, the hiring of Bill O’Brien and all the negativity that accompanied one of the ugliest situations in college sports history. But once again, Jones stayed the course.
As a senior at Penn State, Jones earned first-team All-Big Ten Conference honors and was named Penn State’s Outstanding Senior Player and the recipient of the team’s Reid-Robinson Award. It was his senior year as well, where he realized he may have a very good shot at making the pros.
It’s hard to believe that the 6-foot-4, 322 pounds Jones never expected to go so far when it came to football. He expected he would take a very different route in life. He did not expect to be starting at Penn State, and he did not expect to be drafted in the fourth round by the Tennessee Titans in the 2014 NFL Draft. It was actually a career as a police officer that Jones expected he would one day have.
“I loved football, but I never thought this is what my career would be. I majored in criminal justice, and I loved it. I even had an internship at a police department near Penn State when I was a senior in college,” said Jones.
Football seems to have worked out nice for Jones. As a rookie in 2014, Jones played in seven games with one start. He posted his first career sack against Indianapolis on Dec. 28. In 2015, Jones was one of four members of the team to start all 16 games, holding down a spot at defensive end for the duration of the campaign. He totaled 67 tackles, 15 quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
In March of 2018, Jones signed a three-year contract worth $21 million, with $14 million guaranteed.
In March of 2019, Jones married his girlfriend of five years, Alexis. They are also expecting a baby boy within the next two months, who they would like to name Steve, the name of Jones’ father.
Jones lists his father, as the most inspirational person in his life. Steve raised DaQuan as a single father and one of his father’s greatest traits is that he works extremely hard in everything he does.
The feeling is mutual between father and son. His father has nothing but joy and appreciation to what his son has done with his life.
“I’m proud of DaQuan every single day. I’m proud of all four of my boys. DaQuan is the oldest of all of them and to see him accomplish such things, it puts such a great example and leader into his younger brother’s heads and I am grateful for that every day,” said Jones (Steve).
Jones’ life has been a tough. But his hard work and mental mind set are what have pushed him towards being the best person he can be and living the best life he possibly can.
“To see how far I’ve come as a person over the past ten years is amazing,” said Jones. “I’ve been through so much and I’m truly grateful for everything and everyone in my life at this very moment.”