Phil Jones knew all about a perfect Friday night under those proverbial lights as a legendary high school coach.
He brought that same magic to Saturday afternoons and evenings (and a few Thursday nights while at Shorter University as well).
And on a pristine spring Sunday, sunny with temperatures in the upper 60s on the field of Winder Barrow High School, Phil Jones did it again, Only this time, he was being remembered for not just the way he coached young men and young coaches but the life lessons he taught them, lessons that have carried them since his passing the day after Christmas.
From his assistant coach and athletics director at Shorter, Bill Peterson, to the former player now charges with leading the Hawks team Jones founded, Zach Morrison, family, friends, fellow coaches, past players and others gathered to not pay final respects to Phil Jones but to celebrate decades of celebrating life and a sport they all loved.
Peterson recalled how then-Shorter President Dr. Harold Newman wanted Jones to be head coach and athletics director. Jones deferred, telling Newman he didn’t have time to do both — but Peterson did. And while Peterson technically was his boss, on those Hawks sidelines, it was Jones calling the shots — and the plays. Peterson joked about his job in singaling in all the plays Jones called, saying Jones was probably the only coach to ever “run all the plays he called by his athletics director.
Peterson told of an amazing pregame speech Jones game, spiritual in nature, after the Hawks traveled to Jackson, Tenn., to play Lambuth University. The coach then is a familiar name now, Hugh Freeze. The Hawks went on to beat Freeze and Lambuth that day.
In his closing comments, Peterson told of his love and respect for Jones, ending with, “We thank the good Lord for you.”
Above, please find some of the remembrances from Sunday afternoon, courtesy of the Winder-Barrow Touchdown Booster Club via Facebook Live. You’ll also find a link to the program shared by his family with those attending the services on Sunday.
Shorter University has established an endowment in memory of former Head Football Coach Phil Jones. It will benefit the football program Jones was instrumental in building.
“We have set aside $25,000 to establish the Coach Phil Jones Memorial Endowment to honor the memory of Coach Jones and thank Janie Jones for their dedication, hard work, and commitment to Shorter University and the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Shorter University President Dr. Don Dowless. “We are grateful that future generations will continue to be impacted by the Joneses’ example of Christian service. His stellar career at Shorter was built on the cornerstone of relationships, and together they had a remarkable impact on players’ lives.”
Jones was hired in 2004 to build the newly established program. In 2008, he was named the Grant Teaff Fellowship of Christian Athletes National Coach of the Year. Joining an elite class of honorees that included Tommy Bowden, Sylvester Croom and Tommy Tuberville, Jones was also named the American Football Coaches Association’s NAIA Division I Coach of the Year in 2008.
Jones came to Shorter from NCAA 1-AA (now FCS) Gardner-Webb University. He served as an assistant coach for the Running Bulldogs, who won back-to-back Big South Conference championships during his tenure. Prior to Gardner-Webb, Jones served as an assistant coach at Southern Methodist University and coached under Jim Donnan at the University of Georgia from 1997 to 2001.
In addition to his collegiate coaching success, Jones coached Georgia high school football for 29 years, his last stop coming at Winder-Barrow High (1984-97), where he led his teams to the playoffs eight times. In 1993, Winder-Barrow advanced to the State AAA semifinals, earning Jones the honor of 1993 AAA Coach of the Year. His career included 47 seasons as a coach.
Contributions to the Phil Jones Endowment may be made online at www.shorter.edu/coach-jones or by mailing a check with Coach Jones Endowment in the memo line to Shorter University Advancement, 315 Shorter Ave., Rome, GA 30165.
Former players, former coaches and family members are flooding Facebook today as they remember the man who brought not only college football to then Shorter College but also to Northwest Georgia.
Coach Phil Jones died Saturday following a stubborn battle with Alzheimer’s Disease but later complications from coronavirus, according to posts from relatives on Facebook. He was 74.
Jones, who led the Hawks for 11 seasons, capped off an outstanding career at the helm of the team with his retirement in 2016. He was named coach emeritus of the Hawks and was inducted into Shorter’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017. His 47-year coaching career also included time at Gardner-Webb University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia, along with 29 years of high school coaching.
Former athletes, colleagues and friends are remembering Coach Jones and sending their condolences to his wife, Janie, and their daughter, Connie, on Facebook. Funeral arrangements are pending. We will have updates as soon as the details are announced.
From current Shorter head football Coach Zach Morrison:
John McClellan, who serves as the public address announcer, at Hawks’ games, wrote:
Phil Jones was Shorter College’s first football coach. He was an influence on so many young men, a class act, and a friend to so many not only in the Rome community but to other places where he coached. May he Rest In Peace.
From Armuchee High football:
The Armuchee Football Family sends our condolences and prayers to the family and former players of Phil Jones. Coach Jones was successful on the HS and College level but more importantly he set a Christian example for hundreds and hundreds of young men. Thank you for all that you contributed Coach Jones.
Former players and coaches celebrated his career during an event in June 2017. Photos
From Hometown Headlines’ previous report on his retirement:
“I’ve been a lot of places—in high schools and colleges, but Shorter University has just been a tremendous part of my life,” Coach Jones said in discussing his retirement. “I fell in love with Shorter and with these kids. This decision to retire has been very emotional for me, and I have so much love for these kids who have worked so very hard in all circumstances.
“I really want to thank the players, the community, and the Shorter family for supporting Shorter Football during our time here.
Jones was hired as Shorter’s first-ever football coach in 2004 to build the newly established program. In 2008, he was named the Grant Teaff Fellowship of Christian Athletes National Coach of the Year, joining an elite class of honorees that includes Tommy Bowden, Sylvester Croom and Tommy Tuberville. Jones was also named the American Football Coaches Association’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I Coach of the Year in 2008.
Jones came to Shorter from NCAA Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. He served as an assistant coach for the Running Bulldogs, who won back-to-back Big South Conference championships during his tenure. Prior to Gardner-Webb, Jones served as an assistant coach at Southern Methodist University and coached under Jim Donnan at the University of Georgia from 1997 to 2001.
In addition to his collegiate coaching success, Jones coached Georgia high school football for 29 years, his last stop coming at Winder-Barrow High (1984-97) where he led his teams to the playoffs eight times. In 1993, Winder-Barrow advanced to the State AAA semifinals, earning Jones the honor of 1993 AAA Coach of the Year. The 2015 season marked his 47th season as a coach.
Jones, who served on the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Executive Committee for three terms and as the organization’s chairman from 1993-95, was named AAA Athletic Director of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Directors Association in 1994.
A native of Thomaston, Ga., Jones graduated from Mercer University in 1968.