When the Virginia football team opened up camp on Monday, former Cavalier running back Perry Jones was finishing his first day of practice across town. After completing his UVa career, Jones is now serving as the running backs coach at Albemarle High School.
"I've been called Coach Jones a couple of times and it just isn't clicking to me yet," Jones said of his first full day on the job. "I'm just glad to be out here with these guys. They have a good group of guys, and I'm just looking forward to working with them and just giving them as much advice, and showing them what I learned over the years."
Jones finished his career at UVa with 3,722 all-purpose yards and is only the fourth player in school history to reach 1,000 career rushing and receiving yards. He spent time with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in camp this summer.
When he didn't make the roster for the Ravens' training camp, Jones started talking with the Albemarle staff about their open coaching position. Patriots head coach Mike Alley calls it a perfect fit. "It feels like he's been with us the whole time," Alley said.
"He's so easy to get along with. The kids love him and they listen to him, and I think there's some instant respect there."
The Patriots players are excited that the running back they used to watch on Saturdays at Scott Stadium is now helping them develop their skills.
"He's already got me better than last year in one day," said Albemarle senior running back Drake Bryant. "I'm excited, and he's got a lot to offer."
"It's definitely nice having somebody from that caliber of experience, playing UVa running back, down here teaching us some of the methods that they use at the next level," added senior quarterback Jordan Shelton.
Jones was a captain for the Cavaliers in both his junior and senior seasons, and says that experience showed him what it's like to be a coach.
He also feels that the environment at UVa prepared him for his new job with the Patriots, whose motto is "character, commitment, and team."
"Coach London was really big on character first, and just how you carried yourself and how people looked at you," Jones said. "They're big on it here too, so I definitely think that's an important foundation for a young man."
Jones still believes that the NFL is in his future, and he says he'll be ready if he gets an opportunity from the Ravens or any other team, but his long-term goal is to become a football coach.
"When I was playing in high school, I saw a lot of guys who had the talent, but just didn't have nobody steering them in the right direction, and I just want to positively influence as many young people as I can."