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Jenni Carlson: Mission trip brought out leadership, provided perspective for OU quarterback Landry Jones

by Jenni Carlson Published: July 26, 2011

Some of the answer lies in the maturity he's gained and the success he's enjoyed, but no small part of it was that mission trip to Haiti.

Jones was among nine football players who made the journey to the Mission of Hope, a Haitian ministry that includes an orphanage, school, church and medical clinic. Several members of the OU women's basketball team had been there a year ago, and while Jones heard stories from then-girlfriend, now-fiancée Whitney Hand, it didn't prepare him for what he saw.

“I think it just really kind of opened my eyes,” Jones said. “There's life outside the United States, there's life outside of football, and there's life outside the University of Oklahoma.

“Everyone doesn't walk around with an iPhone in their back pocket.”

Life in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country touched Jones so much that he began thinking he might move to Haiti one day to minister to people there.

Amid that emotional time came news that Sooner linebacker Austin Box had died. Thousands of miles from home, Jones and his teammates leaned on each other. They mourned together. They cried together.

“It was important for us to be together at that time,” Jones said, “and kind of get to walk each other through it.”

Jones led the way. He'd never had someone close to him die, but even as he was dealing with the loss, he helped provide spiritual comfort to his teammates.

Those days in Haiti provided perspective for Jones. He saw quite clearly what was important to him — faith, football, friends — but at the same time, he realized just how fortunate he was to have everything that he had.

At a position that is as much about intangibles as skills and talents, Jones is more prepared to lead than ever before. He came back from Haiti changed.

He came back better.

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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