Former NFL Running Back George D. Jones Knows Why Fathers Are So Important to Raising Thriving Children
Growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, former NFL Running Back George D. Jones had a rough childhood; one that was filled with poverty, abuse, angst, and homelessness, and was missing the one aspect of his life that he yearned for; a father.
Not only did Jones never meet his dad he never knew anyone from his paternal side of the family and as a young boy he and his mom lived in poverty, with his mother frequently unable to pay the electric bill.
Moving to the projects at age 11, life became even more perilous when he was exposed to street fights, drugs, street crime, and more.
That was until it what sounds like the inspiring 2009 Academy Award-winning movie The Blind Side, Jones met a boy who also loved playing football and the boy’s dad, Monnie Broome, and the boy’s mom, Jackie, took him under their wing and transformed his life in a myriad of ways. All of this led to Jones attending college and going on to play professional football.
Today, Jones, of Austin, Texas, is the nurturing father of three sons, George Jr. 16, Max, (who has Down’s Syndrome and autism), 14, and Cooper, 11.
Not only is he a hands-on stay-at-home father, but he is also the epitome of The Present Dad, and happily celebrates his wife of 18 years, Katie, who he calls “his rock” for supporting all of his endeavors, including staying home with their three boys and providing them with a positive paternal role model.
He also wrote The Present Dad, a book released on Father’s Day 2022, to help others with his inspiring life story of poverty and homelessness to a successful NFL career, a rich family life, and making motivational speeches to high school and college students and other distinguished audiences.
Jones was also recently honored with two fatherhood awards at the International Fatherhood Conference held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
His message focuses on the importance of fathers, father figures, and positive male role models is vital for both boys and girls to stem the tide of dire social and emotional problems.
“A Present Dad is somebody not just there in the physical sense,” explained Jones. “But he is also there for the emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects, every part of the child’s life. Just being home is not enough if you have no idea what your child is doing in school or in sports. You must be present for everything the child is taking on and guide them in the best way possible.”
Read on for George D. Jones’ life lessons, how a male role model saved his life, and why we all need to be present in the lives of our children.
What is your wish for all fathers and why?
George D. Jones: As my boys get older, I am recognizing how precious time is. My wish for all fathers is to slow down and truly enjoy the time they have with their children. Spend as much time as you possibly can with your kids. Treasure each moment and create positive memories. Time is against us as parents. I never knew my dad and it left a void in me. I don’t want that for any child.
What life lessons do you want to share?
George D. Jones: No matter what happens in life, don’t ever let anything get you down. People ask me even with the flaws in my life, do I have regrets? I do not. I would not change anything. If I changed anything I would not be the father that I am. I use my mistakes as points of reflection and hopefully, life lessons for others. I try to stay positive and engaged. I try to be present as much as humanly possible, at all times. Sure, I am going to make mistakes. I am not flawless. None of us are flawless. I am always going to try to be the best father to the boys. One of the best things I can teach our boys is to own your mistakes.
What is your focus now?
George D. Jones: I give 25 percent each to my wife and three boys, and zero to myself. I engage in self-care so I can give fully to my family, one may need more than the other. I have to be nimble based on the needs of the family, not my needs. Now my life is dedicated to my family. Each one of my boys needs the proper attention and they are all different. With my eldest son, I need to be more serious with him. He is driving and playing varsity football and we talk about different aspects of life than I do with his younger brothers. G.J. will soon be off to college, and this time is precious. Max, who has special needs, requires me to constantly adapt. Cooper is lighthearted, but my approach to serious conversations looks different.
Please talk about the joys and challenges of being a father to Max, your middle son who has Down’s Syndrome and autism.
George D. Jones: At first, it was more difficult than it is now. At first, you ask, ‘Why did having a son with special needs happen to me?’ I went through a bit of a grieving process knowing the son I thought I was going to raise was going to look, act and speak a lot different than I thought. I didn’t even know what Down Syndrome was until Max was born.
But the good Lord had a plan. Max has taught me more than I have taught him. I look at all of this differently than I used to. He has taught me empathy and how to advocate. I give him a lot of love and joy and I try to be a role model and advocate for him and his peers. Every day I do what’s best for him and I don’t worry how it reflects on me. I knew neighbors with special needs children and they dressed them differently and treated them differently and I never did. I have learned how to set the bar high for Max regardless of his diagnoses
Could you tell me about The Present Dad Foundation?
George D. Jones: I started it in 2022 with a solid purpose. There is a curriculum and there are 7 pillars to try to help dads to be more involved with their kids and become better, engaged fathers. I think a dad, or a mother who is assuming the role of a dad, there are things they could be doing with their kids. I know that void of missing a parent growing up, kids today share that void with me when I speak in their classrooms and I hope we can begin to change that.
Why did your father figure-mentor Monnie Broome want to help change your life?
George D. Jones: I ask myself that question all the time. I feel like, Monnie knew there was a plan for me. The Broomes’ helped lots of kids. I never had a male influence look at me and want to give me love and support. As a young person, I didn’t understand why, but there is something he saw in me that I didn’t see in myself. I was homeless in the 10th grade and due to my circumstances, my grades plummeted.
There was an opportunity for me to go to a junior college and I did not want to leave Greenville. But he insisted. He said, ‘You are going to Bakersfield, California, to make something out of your life.’ He knew something I didn’t know. When I asked him years later, he said, ‘I knew you had a special talent. I knew you were going to do something special in sports.’ Monnie and his wife, Jackie, saved my life. There is no way I would be here in this place right now without their love and support.
Monnie is one of your mentors. Tell me about Archie Manning, who wrote the forward for your book.
George D. Jones: Yes, Monnie and Archie Manning are my mentors. How is that possible –two older white men in their 70s and 80s. When I spoke at Howard University for a virtual event, they asked me if I had any African American influence that I looked up to and I never had one. The people who helped me out don’t look anything like me and how they were brought up. They knew I needed help in certain aspects of my life. This is another goal of mine. I want to ensure that people who look like me have a positive presence in the lives of kids.
How did you connect with Archie Manning?
George D. Jones: I contacted him after I saw his documentary about his three boys – Eli, Peyton, and Cooper – and he has been a mentor ever since. As a man, you should have the humility and vulnerability to ask people for help. Most people see that as a sign of weakness; I see it as a sign of strength. I will ask anybody for help if it will help my kids and me.
In general, I think that men often don’t ask for help because they don’t want to look weak. But I say, if you need help ask for it even if it makes you uncomfortable. It truly is a sign of strength. Do it to be a better father for your kids.
George D. Jones Bio:
Devoted father of three sons, George D. Jones grew up in poverty never knowing his father, and always felt a gaping hole in his life until he was mentored by the father (and mother) of a high school friend. As a result of this family’s support, he played running back for many years in the NFL. Currently, he runs The Present Dad Foundation to help fathers learn how to nurture their sons. The foundation offers support, guidance, and a curriculum to help families from all backgrounds not just survive but thrive.