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A Long Road Ahead

Michael Jones' Rush at the Record Books Shines Brighter Than His College Prospects


VICTORVILLE — Michael Jones' powerful legs, rock-solid upper body and shifty moves have helped him run around, through and over tacklers the past two high school football seasons. And now, three weeks before he begins his assault on opposing defenses and Orange County record books, Jones is already looking for running room.

This time, however, his strength, elusiveness and 4,506 career rushing yards cannot help him. As he sits on his aunt and uncle's living-room couch in this high-desert town on the road to Las Vegas, Jones realizes there is nowhere to go. His luck has run out.

On this day, Jones' mother is far more formidable than opposing defenses have been. Martha Jones has been her son's biggest fan throughout much of his prolific prep football career, but now she's his biggest critic.

"I just wish Michael would spend as much time with the books as he's spent being a socialite," she said. "We have all talked to him about it. My family, my brothers' families, friends of the family. Everybody. But it's up to him. I've told him many times, 'You have the world at your hands. All you have to do is take it.' "

As his mother's soft voice grows louder and more emotional, Jones' 6-foot-1 1/2, 200-pound frame sinks into the couch and his eyes well up with tears.

"I think it's a macho thing," Martha Jones said. "They don't want to ask for help because they think they're too big for it. He's been spoiled. But when you get to a certain age, it's time to stop being spoiled and start being responsible."

There is not much for Jones to say in his defense. He knows his mother is right.

"I can't change the past," Jones says.

Although Jones has been gaining on the best running backs in Orange County prep football history--his 4,506 yards place him fifth all-time, 891 yards behind former Valencia back Ray Pallares' record of 5,397--he's been losing ground in his bid to become eligible to play Division I college football. Jones has managed to stay eligible at Laguna Hills--one of the county's top academic schools--by taking less challenging classes. However, many of the courses he's passed do not meet the NCAA's core requirements.

Although Jones went to both sessions of summer school this year and carries a C-plus average--one of those sessions was a Scholastic Assessment Test study class--he has no chance of completing enough core classes to qualify to compete at an NCAA Division I school next year.

So while he's rated by some scouting services as one of the top 25 running backs in the country and was being recruited by Colorado, Ohio State, Florida, USC and UCLA, Jones probably will attend a community college next fall.

The news is not a revelation to Jones, his family,

friends or coach, Steve Bresnahan. But that doesn't

mean it's any less frustrating or disappointing.

"When Michael applies himself, he's very capable of doing college-prep work," Bresnahan said. "Not always has he applied himself."

"We knew the time would come where there'd be a chance Michael could earn a scholarship to play Division I football," said Greg Williams, Jones' Junior All-American football coach, mentor and friend. "But some kids don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. They take things for granted. Four to five months ago, Michael said, 'These guys weren't kidding. I really can go somewhere with this.' "

Jones said time simply slipped away from him.

"If I'd have known I could be this good at football, I'd have started earlier with the books," he said.

Nothing has come easy to Jones in the classroom, but his troublesome subjects are science and math.

"Sometimes all I feel I can do in math is count money," he said.

Most Division I schools stopped recruiting Jones this summer when they discovered his academic problems were too severe to spend any more time on him. But a few letters still trickle in.

Jones says he doesn't bother opening the letters anymore, and he refuses to think about what he's missing this fall and winter: recruiting trips to the college of his choice, phone calls from John Robinson, Steve Spurrier and John Cooper.

Adding to the frustration, Jones has two teammates, fullback Anthony Daye and tight end Saai Makakaufaki, who are being recruited by most Division I schools on the West Coast. Both probably will wind up playing Division I college football even though they have played in Jones' shadow for two seasons.

"No, it doesn't bother me because it's my fault," Jones said. "I can't blame anybody. I've prepared myself for it."

Jones said he is prepared to attend Saddleback College next fall, but he is also ready to take a year off from football.

"I'm thinking about not playing next year a lot," he said. "There's less chance of getting hurt if I play one year. I'll also be able to get a lot bigger and work on my grades if I redshirt next year."

Martha Jones is against Michael playing any football at a community college.

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