PBHS star Adam Jones ready for a Shrine Bowl shot

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Sometimes called the state’s “Super Bowl of Hope,” the Kansas Shrine Bowl football game will be contested July 31.

The annual charity all-star game featuring the state’s best graduated high school seniors from across the state will be played at Welch Stadium at Emporia State. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Among the 68 athletes selected to play in the 31st annual contest will be Adam Jones, a 2004 graduate of Peabody-Burns High School.

Jones, the son of Luke Jones and Connie Jones, said he was notified of his selection in December.

“I was going to lunch and Coach (Chris) Young told me I had been selected,” Jones said. “It was just a shock to hear I was selected-I had no idea why they’d picked me to play in this game. I really didn’t think they’d come down to such a small school for players.”

Actually, it’s not too hard to see why Jones was selected.

A first-team pick in the Heart of America League on both offense and defense, Jones also was named to the Class 2A first team as defensive end and second team as an offensive tackle.

Jones was also a member of the Warriors’ track and field team as well as the basketball team.

Off the field, Jones participated in the school choir and band and was president of the PBHS student council.

Jones also donates time as a “big” in the local Big Brothers/ Big Sisters program.

“When I was growing up, I always had people to look up to, but they never actually talked to me,” he said. “This way I’m able to give them something that I didn’t have-sort of like a mentor that will spend time with them.”

Jones’ association with BBBS spans three years and includes five matches.

“Since these kids have seen me playing football, sometimes their eyes get pretty big when they talk to me,” Jones said. “I know it has to be a special feeling for them when someone older pays attention to them.”

Jones’ road to the Shrine Bowl was made a little tougher last fall when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Even so, Jones played the rest of the season, but underwent reconstructive surgery in December. Every indication suggests the surgery was successful.

“I only had rehab for about two months, and my doctor told me things were going so well that I didn’t have to go back,” Jones said. “I’m already doing exercises at full speed and have been for about a month.

“It’s been going really good.”

So good, in fact, that Jones is back in the weight room on a consistent basis-and his strength is almost back to pre-surgery form.

“My legs have come back after surgery quickly,” he said. “At the beginning, I was really struggling, but after I got after it, I’m only about 50 pounds under what I was before (the surgery).”

Standing 6 feet 3 inches and tipping the scales at 240 pounds, Jones has been clocked at 4.76 seconds in the 40.

Jones is a testament to the Shriners’ motto, “Strong legs run that weak legs may walk.” He is able to squat 515 pounds, bench 320 and handle 330 in the clean.

Jones said he’s been looking forward to the July 31 game for quite some time.

“I want to see how good I really am,” he said. “I know I was a good player in 2A, but I want to see how I compare to guys in the bigger classes.”

But Jones knows the Shrine Bowl is about something much more important than personal comparison and satisfaction.

“None of us are playing for our own recognition,” he said. “We’re playing to help the kids.”

The “kids” are patients at the Shriners’ network of 22 hospitals for children. The hospitals provide expert, no-cost orthopedic and burn care to children under 18 years of age.

“I went to a banquet and learned about the Shrine Bowl,” he said. “It’s all about gaining money for the hospitals, and I know it’s a great honor to play with the best players from across Kansas for a great cause.”

In addition to playing in the Shrine Bowl, participants also visit to the Shriners’ hospital in St. Louis to interact with its young patients.

“I think that will be a hard thing, seeing little kids who have no control over what’s going on with their health,” Jones said. “For some of these little kids, hope is brought about by the fact that we’re playing in this game to raise money so they can have the opportunity to be helped at these hospitals.”

Jones said his recent surgery pales in comparison to what some of the Shriner patients endure.

“I can recover from that easily,” he said. “But some of the kids that we’re playing for-their illnesses are chronic.”

Jones said he’s talked to others who have toured the Shriners’ facilities and knows it will be a moving experience.

“They came back better people, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “I know I’m playing in the game for those kids.”

Having the opportunity to square off with the top athletes in the state provides a challenge Jones relishes, and he’ll certainly face some of the best.

Five of the 68 Shrine picks will play NCAA Division I football (three at Kansas State, two at Kansas), 11 players have signed with NCAA Division II schools, 18 will battle in the tough Jayhawk Junior Conference and four have signed with NAIA schools.

Jones has signed with Fort Hays State.

“I talked with FHSU after my junior year,” Jones said. “The reason I picked FHSU was because a lot of the other schools that were interested in me lost interest when they found out I had torn my ACL, but FHSU didn’t waver.”

Jones said a red-shirt year awaits him at FHSU, but he views it as an opportunity to mature.

“They want me to get my knee completely healthy,” he said. “It’ll be tough sitting out a year, but I’ll get experience-just not the playing time.

“I’ll also have time to get adjusted to college life,” he said.

Jones said FHSU coach Tim O’Connor plans to make Jones a tight end for the Tigers.

“I’ve never played at tight before, but they think with my blocking skills, that position would be a perfect fit,” he said.

While at FHSU, Jones plans to major in elementary education with a minor in coaching.

Jones said his high school coach has been a major influence on his life.

“Coach Young has been everything to me,” he said. “Ever since I was a freshman, he’s taken me under his wing. Knowing what Coach Young has meant to me has definitely affected my decision as far as a career.”

Jones, who’s been running two miles a day in addition to extra sprints in preparation for the game, will leave for Salina July 23 to begin practice.

Advanced tickets can be purchased through the Shrine Bowl office by calling 1-800-530-5524.

“I really don’t know what to expect in this game,” Jones said. “I’m just ready for a hard-fought game and I realize raising money for the kids is the most important part of this game.”

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