It’s been said first impressions are everything, but for Brandon Jones, senior safety, what really matters are second chances.
Going from barely graduating high school to planning to graduate in spring 2015 with a degree in sociology and a minor in criminal justice, Jones credits his second opportunity for success to football.
“Where I’m from, not many guys get the chance to play Division I football,”
Jones said. “A lot of my friends ended up locked up before they even graduated high school, and I was fortunate to have my head on straight and get it done.”
Having been raised in North Carolina, a state ranked 15th for violent crime and 13th for poverty level, Jones never seemed likely to succeed. Many of Jones’ friends had been incarcerated before graduating. Jones’ mother, Fredonna Gaines, strived to keep her son motivated with positive activities with the hopes of keeping him from similar situations.
“As soon as he became older, he had four running partners that he just ran with all the time,” Gaines said. “They ate with us, they stayed the night, they were always over. What motivated me to encourage (Brandon) to go above and beyond was that, believe it or not, those four gentlemen all got in big trouble—two of them served time before finishing high school—and I just think, it could have been Brandon.”
This same thought resonates through Jones’ head, which is what brought him to his choice of major: hoping to utilize his degree to help those that “could have been him.”
“Everybody needs a second chance, and I could have been one of those kids who ended up in juvenile justice or social worker care,” Jones said. “I just really want to help those people.”
Gaines finds deep joy in reflecting on her son’s accomplishments. Jones, who once struggled to get himself through high school, now has intentions to help others through situations he was once faced with.
“Words can’t even describe the feelings that I have, from then to now,” Gaines said. “I have watched him grow. It really impressed me to see that my young son that was immature at one time had matured and made this all happen for himself, all by himself.”