Take a look at the highlight tapes of Ronald Jones II — a 2015 Oklahoma State running back commitment —and you’ll see the 4.41-second 40-yard dash speed that allowed him to thrash opposing defenses during his junior season at McKinney North High School in Texas.
You’ll see the quick cuts and downhill style that helped him run for 2,406 yards and 39 touchdowns. You’ll also see a dose of physicality that helped the four-star recruit become one of the nation’s most sought-after tailbacks and attracted offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and USC, among many others.
But the part that matters is what you can’t see.
It’s a dog tag Jones keeps stashed under his shoulder pads bearing his father’s name, Ronald Jones.
It’s a large part of what fueled Jones’ rapid transition from young talent to high school superstar. It’s an even bigger part of what made Jones a person his coach, Mike Fecci, raves about.
“I’m not paying out lip service — he generally does care more about others than he does himself,” Fecci said. “He just wants to be another guy, and because of that his teammates respect him and his teammates love him. He could be the other way, and then his team would love him on a Friday night and hate him on a Saturday morning. That’s not the case.”
Entering Jones’ sophomore year, Fecci knew he had a gifted athlete, but with two senior running backs on the team, Jones had a limited role.
And Jones admits he had a reputation for missing practice, not paying attention in class and generally lacking focus.
When Jones’ father died of an unexpected heart attack midway through his sophomore year, that all changed.
Jones was away from the team for two weeks dealing with the death and attending his father’s military funeral. He missed a third game as he got reacclimated with football.
Not long after his return, something clicked.
“Week Nine, Week 10 of his sophomore year, I think he rushed for like 200 yards on about eight carries and had four touchdowns,” Fecci said. “That’s when we were like, ‘Yeah, there he is.’”
Said Jones: “(My dad) was in and out of my life throughout high school and middle school, but when the heart attack happened, I started playing for him. He motivated me to actually go to classes and go to practice and work even harder. When I run the ball, I run for him.”