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Cayleb Jones makes all the plays

11/10/2011

AUSTIN, Texas -- Three-time Super Bowl champion Robert Jones sat two chairs to the left of his son, Cayleb Jones, as Cayleb was honored with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey at Austin (Texas) Stephen F. Austin High School on Wednesday.

The acknowledgement of his son's accomplishment was clear in Robert's face as he cracked smiles and gave Cayleb some dap after the nation's No. 3 wide receiver addressed his family and friends inside a school classroom. It was part of the 80-stop American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour.

But it was something Cayleb did two weeks ago, something subtle and away from the news cameras and reporters that have flocked his way over the last few years, that Robert was truly gleaming about.

"Cayleb was at a restaurant, heard a lady needed help jumping her car, and helped her jump it," Robert said. "He didn't have to pay anybody to get help. She didn't have to pay anyone. He had jumper cables in the car and helped her out."

It was a gesture that means more to Robert than any of the 64 catches, 927 yards or seven touchdowns Cayleb has accumulated this season.

"What means more to me than Cayleb playing for Under Armour is the character of the person he has grown into," Robert said.

When Cayleb heard the woman ask the cashier for help, his first instinct was to step in and lend a hand.

"It isn't something that I looked to do for gratitude," Cayleb said. "It was just the right thing to do."

That way of thinking has been embedded in the heads of Cayleb and younger brother Isaiah, a junior wide receiver for Austin High, from a very young age. Being accountable for yourself and being able to help others are necessities if you grow up in the Jones household.

Ask the Joneses why and they'll tell you it's because football isn't always a sure thing. There's a life outside of the game, too.

Robert spent 10 seasons as a linebacker in the NFL with four teams -- the Cowboys (1992-95), St. Louis Rams (1996-97), Miami Dolphins (1998-2000) and Washington Redskins (2001). He was the 1992 NFC Rookie of the Year.

"His career ended before he wanted it to end," Cayleb said. "When I saw my dad struggling at the end of football and he was able to move on and start working and doing other things, that is something I admired and wanted to do at any time."

Sure, Robert having spent a decade in the NFL afforded Cayleb the opportunity to do things others couldn't.
He's been introduced to Art Monk, Michael Irvin, Alvin Harper, O.J. McDuffie and Isaac Bruce, among others. When Robert played for Washington, Cayleb sat in a suite with Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green's son Jared.

That was all part of Robert's plan to get his son exposed to professionals with hopes that Cayleb would apply what he learned to his playing career. It's worked out well.

Jones (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is a four-star wide receiver who is rated as the No. 30 overall prospect in 2012 and the No. 3 wideout in the country. He is one of 10 Longhorns commitments who will play in the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 5, 2012, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"I feel like it is a really strong statement," Jones said of the large Texas contingency that will play in the game. "We are a bunch of guys that work hard. A lot of it is raw talent. A lot of it is hard work. That is going to mix together and make something special in a few years."

Robert's plan for Cayleb away from the playing field has been much less glamorous.

"A lot of his friends get to see how he lives when he comes home," Robert said. "It's not peaches and cream. He's not spoon-fed. I am probably the toughest and meanest dad a kid could want. But I want the best out of him. I make him work.

"He has to work leaves, trim hedges. What if he can't play football anymore? Is he good with his hands? Can he take care of his own yard if he can't pay someone to do it for him? Can he paint?"

That discipline hasn't gone unnoticed by Cayleb.

"Both my parents stay on me," said Cayleb, whose mother, Maneesha Jones, sat in between he and Robert at the presentation. "It's ridiculous the time they spend talking to me about my game and what I need to improve on. It's incredible."

The Joneses makes it tough on Cayleb at home so things come easier for him when he plays and when he represents himself.

Cayleb will have an opportunity to make another solid impression as an Under Armour All-American.

"I am just so thankful and so blessed to be playing in this game," Cayleb said. "It means a lot. It means the world to me. It's something else that I can build on."

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation. Follow HornsNation's coverage on Twitter: @ESPNHornsNation.