HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Conor Jones, a junior football player at Hampton High School.
It’s a tradition here.
“Growing up in Hampton you know that’s all you hear about,” former Hampton football player Jacob Jones said.
The love for high school football players is immeasurable in Carter County’s Hampton, Tennessee.
“The high school players would come down and I just thought they were gods walking among men you know,” former Hampton football player Coby Jones said.
It’s almost like those kids are expected to pick up a football.
“Coming up they just teach us win there’s nothing else but winning that’s the only thing, obviously they want us to have fun but winning is the main priority,” current Hampton football junior Conor Jones said.
Knowing the kind of family he’s in, Bulldogs quarterback Conor Jones didn’t really have much of a choice anyways.
“You see you’ve got religion and then Hampton football in our family, it’s just been that way growing up that’s how we were raised,” Conor Jones said.
Same deal for older brothers Jacob, Coby, and Jonah.
“It did cause that’s what everyone talked about growing up just how good my brothers were in everything, growing up I always wanted to be the best that’s just how it is and that’s just the mindset I had, I want to be better than Coby, Jacob or Jonah,” Conor Jones said.
Conor Jones is the 4th Jones brother to wear the Bulldogs uniform, starting with Jacob: a wide receiver who graduated in 2011 and quickly became a Hampton assistant coach in 2012.
“From that point on I just fell in love with the game and that point on I knew I wanted to do something with the football team here,” Jacob Jones said.
“Jacob’s probably the fastest one I’ve ever seen he was just so quick at the wide receiver position,” Conor Jones said.
“Of course he’s big brother but he has been a real big brother to all of them just really been there for them helped them coaching on the field off the field Jacob just a great role model,” Hampton head football coach Michael Lunsford said.
Next was Coby Jones, a football and basketball star who is now a senior basketball player at Johnson Bible College in Knoxville.
“I just remember dreaming of that one day becoming a Hampton High School football player and being able to play under the lights and that came true for me and my brothers it’s a tradition,” Coby Jones said.
“Coby, he was a stud he was all everything all state in basketball all state in football,” Lunsford said.
“I don’t think I’ve quite seen one like Coby ever, watching TV or anything he’s definitely special and that’s who I try to perform my craft like especially being a quarterback,” Conor Jones said.
Jonah Jones was the third, who graduated last year and got to play with Conor for a couple seasons as a wide receiver.
“Man you need to play Hampton football they said there’s nothing like the atmosphere nothing like the fans nothing compared to any of these other schools and that’s what I looked up to ever since I was little and hanging on the side of the fence just watching saying man I can’t wait to play high school football,” Jonah Jones said.
“Limber he’s pretty long he’s a long fella he can run real fast he can catch the ball he’s, he can probably catch the ball better than any of us probably better than Jacob too, don’t tell him I said that,” Conor Jones said.
“Jonah was a little thinner little smaller than the other two but Jonah was just a great route runner last year phenomenal deep route deep catcher played good defense tackled better than you’d expect showed a lot of toughness,” Lunsford said.
That leaves Conor, the youngest.
“Conor’s probably the toughest out of all of us we’ve probably beat him to death,” Jacob Jones said.
“Conor’s built a little bit different too built a little more like Jacob than Coby and Jonah was but same as the other ones just a super competitive kid super hard worker just brings it every day,” Lunsford said.
“I just like to do out and do what I’ve been doing since I was a kid I don’t try to overthink it too much I’ve got a lot on my shoulders at quarterback and I’ve got a community behind me too,” Conor Jones said.
Conor Jones has certainly made his mark in the family history, leading the Bulldogs at quarterback in a push to win the league title.
“You just wanna keep it going it means a ton to you because you’re blessed to come out here every time that you get to play, it’s a blessing from the lord that we got to do what we’ve been doing so far,” Conor Jones said.
“He has high expectations for himself cause he’s seen what his brothers have done before him and he holds himself to a higher expectation because he expects to be as good as they were and so far he’s been a heck of a player for us,” Lunsford said.
There’ll always be comparing the brothers, that competition is still there.
“No we don’t fight as much as what you’d might here some stories of other people but we’ve had our tussles before,” Jacob Jones said.
“Last year there was a time or two when Conor missed Jonah and I’d ask him I’d say what’d Jonah do to make you mad at home what’s going on here why are you missing Jonah you know and it’s just fun to deal with them,” Lunsford said.
“As far as the athletic side of things go that’s all I ever heard about growing up and still growing up is how good Coby was and how good Jacob was and how athletic and good Jonah was,” Conor Jones said.
The joyful memories have lasted more than a decade, but reality sets in that Conor will be the last Jones brother to wear the uniform for the family.
“I try not to get choked up thinking about it but it’s fun it’s a blessing I love all my brothers to death and I’ve really tried my hardest for them but it is tough,” Jacob Jones said.
“Now that it’s over I look back at it like I tried my heart out and I don’t think there’s anything else I could have done so you’re just grateful for the opportunity to play Hampton football,” Jonah Jones said.
It’s not easy accepting the end of an era, but this family will never say goodbye to Hampton. They’re a part of this field like the white lines on the grass.
“His dad painted the field for me for years they’ve just been around and they’re just part of the family,” Lunsford said.
“It’ll be tough but there’s a lot of kids in there that’ll pick up right where we leave off I know that and there’s a lot of good kids in that weight room,” Jacob Jones said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.