Penn State Football: Paul Jones Firmly Entrenched in QB Race
This is the first in a four-part series profiling each of Penn State's quarterbacks.
The hiss of the engine enveloped the air and out he walked, his family three rows deep blowing kisses to its son and brother.
They had waited for Paul Jones to step off the team bus each Saturday last year, even though he was dressed in street clothes.
Saturday was different.
He walked toward the tunnel of Beaver Stadium, his head high, holding back tears.
He's back on the football field. More importantly, he's back on the football field with a chance to out-wrestle the starting quarterback position from Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden.
“I can’t really explain it,” Jones said. “Coming off the bus, all emotions hit me, just thinking I was holding my shoulder pads and helmet this time instead of just walking around with my head down feeling bad for myself.
“I came in just like always, saw my family blowing kisses, when I saw my mom [Jennifer] I had to remember I was about to play football, I was about to start crying.”
Said his father, Paul Sr. — “Even last year when he wasn’t even dressing, we made it a point, my wife and I, to be here. We wanted him to know it’s very important we are with you and we support you 150 percent. That’s how my wife and I do things. We support each other through good times and bad.”
And there were bad times.
He would sneak out of Beaver Stadium immediately after games last season and head back to his apartment.
He would head home to McKees Rocks, outside Pittsburgh, when the team traveled.
Jones enrolled early at Penn State at 17 years old, and when former coach Joe Paterno redshirted him after a strong showing in the 2010 Blue-White Game, Jones started neglecting his grades.
“First fall here, as soon as they told me I was redshirting, I was like, ‘Forget it,’ ” Jones said. “I came here to play football, so they took football away from me, I’m not gonna do school.”
He missed being academically eligible by one credit in 2011, forcing him to sit out a second season. It also led to a June meeting with academic advisor Todd Kulka, Jones’ mother and Jay Paterno.
Jones, a redshirt sophomore. was given two options.
- Transfer to a junior college
- Stick it out at Penn State
“Very simply put, Paul Jr. is not a quitter,” his father said. “Paul Jr. is a competitor. I have not ever known Paul to quit anything, from T-ball from this past Saturday’s Blue-White Game.
“If you say to Paul Jr., ‘I think you can’t,’ he’ll say to you, ‘I think I can.’ ”
In his first game action since 2010, Jones produced mixed results. He, by far, has the strongest arm between the other two contenders, McGloin and Bolden, but he missed long on a couple deep balls and threw one interception.
Based on Saturday, it looks like Jones and McGloin are the two favorites for the job, but Penn State has not said so publicly yet.
“Paul Jones has gotten better every single day,” Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said. “Paul Jones and I have a unique relationship because we both have unique senses of humor. He's been a fun guy to coach, and I'll keep between he and I what he needs to do to win the starting job.”
Paul Sr. respected to keep that information private as well.
Jones has turned a corner academically. He pays more attention to the course syllabi, which has led to all Bs this semester.
It’s also led to a return to the football field.
“I knew when I first saw him Saturday morning he was mentally ready to go play football,” Paul’s father said. “Cause I know him. I know his body language. I know just his persona.
“If he wasn’t excited, I would’ve been worried.”
- Penn State Football: Paul Jones Fighting Through Academic Issues to Make Run at Starting Quarterback Job