Mike Jones excels at turning potentially negative situations into opportunities.
After playing at Missouri from 1987-1991, Jones signed with the Los Angeles Raiders. He was in his fourth year with the Raiders when he started hosting free football camps for children.
“What prompted me was a situation where a friend of mine was killed,” Jones said. “Twenty-one years old, went down the wrong path. Him and a guy got in an altercation, shot each other and one of them died and one of them was injured.
“The night before the funeral, I was with all of us, grew up about 12 of us, and we still were pretty close. We kept saying, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that. Eventually I said, ‘We’ve got to quit talking about it and do it.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to do a football camp.’”
Jones financed his first camp himself and held it at his former school, Kansas City’s Southwest High. During the next few years, he began the Michael Jones Foundation, which holds camps and raises funds in Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia.
Jones’ eighth annual charity basketball game benefits Columbia’s youth scholarship fund, Columbia Public Schools, Jones’ foundation and the Columbia College Cougar Fund. It will be held at 6 p.m. April 24 in the Columbia College Gymnasium.
Jones’ free football clinic will be held at 9 a.m. the same day. It is open to children in kindergarten through seventh grade. The Mid-Missouri Mavericks will host a free youth baseball clinic starting directly after the football clinic. Jones’ foundation has also paired with Midwest Sports Challenge to host a sports skills challenge for children during the day. All events will be held at Stankowski Field.
Jones is known primarily as the savior of Super Bowl XXXIV. On the last play with the St. Louis Rams leading 23-16, he tackled Tennessee Titan Kevin Dyson on the 1- yard line to assure victory for St. Louis.
“In some ways it’s a good thing,” Jones said. “I’d rather be known to make a tackle on a winning team than be the guy that caught the ball and didn’t win the game. I always make sure and keep everything in a positive perspective.”
In a press conference Thursday, Jones, an NFL journeyman who played 13 seasons, four with St. Louis, announced he is retiring from the NFL. Jones played in 2002 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was not picked up in 2003.
Jones plans to have several former NFL players play with him in the charity basketball game, but isn’t certain who will attend.
“The day of the camp is the draft day, so I’ve got some of these guys are juggling their schedule, seeing if they could get down here,” Jones said.