From the Super Bowl to Skyline High School: Rod Jones named new varsity football coach
Rod Jones played big-time college football at the University of Kansas and spent seven years in the National Football League.
But without hesitation, Jones says the coach that made the most lasting impression on him was the late Joe Hoskins at Detroit Henry Ford High School.
Knowing first hand the kind of impact a high school coach can have on impressionable players is what has Jones most excited about being named the new varsity football coach at Skyline High School.
“I want to be that guy. I want to be here for a long time,” Jones said. “I told them I’ll be here as long as you’ll have me. This is my passion and this is what I do.”
The 37-year-old coach met with Skyline players and parents at the high school’s commons on Thursday night.
“He obviously has a tremendous knowledge base of the sport. That and his ability to communicate with kids will make him a great choice to lead our football program,” Skyline athletic supervisor John Young said. “He has a great ability to connect with young kids of all levels. I’m really excited to have him.”
Jones called himself “an eternal optimist” and optimism was the message he tried to convey to a group of varsity players that went 0-9 in 2010, the first varsity season in school history.
“They’ve already been told a lot of negative things: They’re too young, too small,” Jones said. “But that has nothing to do with it. You have to affirm to yourself that you’re capable and you can get things done. Your own perception defines who you are we create that.”
Jones was a seventh round draft pick out of Kansas by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1996. He was a starting offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, which the Rams lost 20-17 to New England.
When his playing days ended, Jones coached at Bowie State in Maryland as part of an internship through the NFL Players Association. He returned to Michigan and was a volunteer lineman coach at Bloomfield Hills Andover and at his alma mater, Detroit Henry Ford.
He was lured to Ann Arbor by former Pioneer coach Jeremy Gold and coached the Pioneers’ offensive line last season.
“Once I got into Ann Arbor, I thought it was a good fit for me and I wanted to stay,” Jones said. “I fell in love with the place and the people.”
Jones became a teaching assistant at Skyline this year and became its new football coach when Randy Hutchison -- who built the Eagles’ program since the school consisted of only freshmen -- resigned to devote more time to his full-time job.
“All the stars were aligned,” Jones said. “I couldn’t ask for a better story than how things kind of worked out and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
The Eagles put up big offensive numbers in Hutchison’s spread offense last season. Junior quarterback Andrew Copp passed for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns, with his 494-yard night against Temperance Bedford tying him for the fifth-best single-game total in MHSAA history. Jordan Woods was his favorite target, pulling down 65 catches for more than 1,000 yards.
But Skyline allowed more than 50 points per game during a winless season.
Not surprisingly, Jones says he’ll bring a lineman’s mentality to the Skyline program.
“To me, that’s where everything starts and it’s the most unnatural thing you can do,” Jones said. “Everybody goes out to throw and catch when they’re kids, but nobody ever says ‘Let’s go out and practice blocking.’”