Super Bowl-bound Giant Greg Jones
gives UHS players a lesson on motivation
By Lindsay Spagnuolo
Utica High Arrow
Heading toward the locker rooms for their last practice of the season, the football team found themselves redirected toward the cafeteria by their coaches. An ordinary practice was about to turn into an extraordinary event.
Walking into the cafeteria, the athletes found themselves face-to-face with the NFL's Greg Jones, defensive linebacker for the New York Giants.
"It was so different just going from seeing Greg Jones play on TV and then meeting him face to face," senior Russel Simmons said. "It was awesome."
Although Jones does not have any personal ties to Utica High, he is dating alumna Mandy Piechowski, daughter of UHS Security Specialist Henry Piechowski. Because the Giants were having a bye week, the couple booked a flight to Michigan to see family and friends. Born in Ohio, Jones attended Michigan State University, where he met Mandy, before being picked by the Giants in the 2011 National Football League (NFL) draft.
When Jones arrived at Utica High, the football coaches arranged an impromptu meeting with the team.
"This was actually the second time he's come here," varsity football coach Anthony Smith said, "but this was the first time he's talked to the kids as an NFL player."
Dressed casually in jeans and a black t-shirt, Jones stood near the cafeteria doors, telling members of the football team his personal story, focusing on the transition from high school to college to the NFL.
"I started out in high school, just like you," he told the team. "I tried my hard-est in college so I would have the opportunity to play in the NFL."
According to Jones, the NFL is not too different from college.
"There is a lot more personal things riding on the games now than there was be-fore," Jones said. "Most of it is about fighting to keep up a reputation, especially for a rookie, because then it's about creating one and keeping it up."
Throughout his visit, Jones emphasized the importance of staying on track and putting in as much effort as possible. He later said he tried to let the players know that if he could do it, so could they. They only needed to set their minds to it.
"You need to follow your dreams," Jones said. "I feel like it's really easy to give up. Regardless of the obstacles in your way, you just need to follow your dreams and it will happen."
Afterward, Jones spent time answering the players' questions, whether they were formal, or less formal, such as "Who do you think is better: Payton or Eli?"
"Greg Jones is a really great guy," Smith said. "You can tell that he likes visiting Utica and talking to the kids." The students, obviously star-struck, appreciated his advice and down-to-earth attitude. After the open question and answer session, he also stuck around to sign autographs and pose for photos.
"Getting to talk with him was amazing," senior Andrew Ackerman said. "I learned a lot from just listening to what he had to say."
Most of the seniors on the team are looking to play in college next year.
"I most definitely want to play in col-lege next year," Ackerman said. "Right now it's looking like I might be playing at Alma, but I'm not sure yet."
A handful of those students also aspire to go on to the NFL after college, but most aren't depending on it.
"I do want to play next year in college. I'm not sure where yet, but I definitely want to," Simmons said. "I would love to then go on to play professionally,but I'm not counting on that as a career."
Ackerman was inspired by what Jones had to say.
"After college I would love to go pro-fess ion al," Ackerman said. "I learned from Greg Jones coming here that you just have to never give up, try really re-ally really hard, and just give it all you've got. It really is possible to go all the way to the NFL."
Simmons said he was also inspired.
"I learned a lot from Greg Jones visiting," Simmons said, "but mostly just to stay working and always be positive to follow your dreams."
Jones' message was clear.
"It's really plain and simple. Just don't give up or get sidetracked," Jones said. "All you have to do is stay persistent and keep trying. Like I said, it's too easy to give up."
- Tab 0
- Tab 1