Nov. 7, 1999
by Bo Rottenborn
To be a successful offensive lineman at the collegiate level, one of the most important things you need to possess is strength.
And if there’s one thing that Irish senior left guard Jim Jones puts a premium on it’s strength.
“Anytime you’re stronger, you’ve got the advantage,” Jones states bluntly.
For years, Jones has dedicated himself to becoming a stronger person and football player through lifting weights.
“Lifting has always been something that I’ve taken a lot of pride in,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to be the best at it. If anyone else was ever doing better than me, or was even close to me, I wanted to beat them.”
In high school, Jones did beat everyone. To be precise, he beat everyone in the history of Richards High School, located just south of Chicago. Jones, a native of Chicago Ridge, set the school record for bench press, pumping out 390 pounds, while weighing only 245.
At Notre Dame, Jones has only gotten stronger. He credits Irish strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti for his progress over the last few years.
Jones points out that the best thing about Marotti’s methods is that he always finds new things for players to do.
“One day you might come in and flip some tires and the next day you’ll push a van,” says Jones of Marotti’s training methods. “Then, some other time you come in and have to carry 150-pound dumbbells around the weight room or you’ll hang from a towel until your hands are just give out. What’s awesome about it is it’s not the same thing every day which can burn you out. He does a great job mixing it up, keeping people interested and motivated.”
Marotti’s methods have helped Jones bulk up to his current size of 6-3, 310-pounds after weighing in at 242 pounds when he first arrived on the college scene. Also, Jones is now able to bench press over 500 pounds – the highest mark on the Irish team.
Strength and also quickness helped Jones win the starting left guard job last spring. This was impressive considering Jones came to Notre Dame as a defensive prospect and played his first two seasons on defense.
“Things didn’t work out for me on defense,” says Jones. ” I worked at it real hard, but the coaches thought offense was a better fit for me.”
After playing in just one game on defense his sophomore year, Jones made the switch and quickly found new motivation to improve.
“I figured that no matter what I did, I was going to be successful here,” says Jones. “If things didn’t work out on defense, then I was going to do everything I could to be successful on offense.
“I am a guy with a lot of pride and if I didn’t do well on offense, I think I’d look back on it the rest of my life and say I really didn’t give forth my best effort.”
Jones waited in the wings last year, seeing action in just two games. But when three members of the starting offensive line graduated, he saw his opportunity and seized it.
Jones’ strength is not solely defined by brute force. He is also one of the best conditioned athletes on the Irish team – he is third in playing time this season. This, according to Jones, is a credit to his intense practice habits.
“It’s funny,” says Jones. “I’m always more tired in practice than I am in games. It’s been like that my whole life. In practice sometimes I’ll be breathing heavy, but in games it seems that I never get tired.”
He also points out that it is easy to get excited to play in games without tiring because of the tremendous atmosphere of Notre Dame football: “You’re in front of 80,000 fans and the adrenaline flows.
“Everything on you feels right: your jersey, your helmet. It’s hard to explain, but in games I never really seem to get tired no matter how much I play.”
Being on the field for virtually every offensive snap, Jones has had to develop another type of strength – mental strength.
“I think one thing you have to do sometimes as an offensive lineman is be short on memory and big on heart,” says Jones as he reveals his personal philosophy. “There are a lot of momentum shifts in a game. Sometimes you’ve just got to forget about them. You’ve got to keep moving forward and making things happen.”
As Jones himself will tell you, there are two keys to making things happen: a little bit of quickness and a lot of strength.
And, in attempting to describe Jones, there is one thing that comes to mind, something he embodies in every possible way: strength.