Callaway’s Jones headed to Auburn
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He’ll always be a member of the Callaway High football family, but Keiondre Jones is looking forward to the next challenge.
For four seasons, Jones was a fixture in the Callaway High lineup as an offensive lineman, and he enjoyed ample individual and team success.
“It’s great to be in that brotherhood,” Jones said, reflecting on his time as a Cavalier.
Jones has played his final high-school game, though, and it’s time to take the next step in his football career.
Jones committed to Auburn in July, and on Wednesday morning at Callaway High, he made it official when he signed his letter of intent.
When the 2019 season rolls around, Jones will be wearing the Auburn colors, and perhaps playing before more than 80,000 fans at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“It’s going to be special,” Jones said. “It’s one of those things that a lot of people don’t get to do in their lives, play in front of 82,000 people. It’s going to be nerve-wracking at first, but I think I’ll be level-headed. I’m ready.”
The 6-foot-4 Jones had plenty of options when it came to choosing a college home.
Jones began receiving offers before he’d played his first high-school football game, and the attention only increased in the intervening years.
In the end, Auburn was the choice, and Jones said it was “a special feeling” to finally sign his letter of intent.
“It’s hard to explain. It’s a good feeling, I can tell you that,” Jones added. “And to get it all over with, it’s good to get it done. It’s been since the eighth grade, and now it’s done.”
Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach, is thrilled to see Jones get this opportunity.
“I’m very excited for KJ,” Wiggins said. “I’m excited for his family, his teammates, and what he’s represented at Callaway High School, both as a football player, and as a person. He’s a great leader. He’s displayed great character for a long time. He’s represented our jersey the way it’s supposed to be represented.”
It didn’t take Jones long to become a contributor for the Cavaliers.
In 2014, he stepped right into the lineup for a veteran team with high expectations.
Jones started every game on the offensive line that season as Callaway won a region championship and went 10-2.
During Jones’ sophomore season in 2016, Callaway went 13-1 and reached the state semifinals before losing to Benedictine.
The 2017 season was another successful one for Callaway, which went 11-2 and made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Brooks County.
As a senior, Jones anchored the offensive line as Callaway went 11-3 and advanced to the semifinals before dropping a close one to Rockmart.
By the time Jones was done, he’d played in 53 games, including 13 playoff games.
“He’s played more games as a high-school player than anyone we’ve ever had at Callaway High School,” Wiggins said. “He’s worked extremely hard to be in this position. I’m happy for him.”
Jones recalls those early days when he was getting his feet wet as a high-school player, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“I came in with the big head in spring ball when I was in the eighth grade,” Jones said. “They kind of showed me real fast that won’t work. I appreciate that. They humbled me a lot. I needed that. As first I didn’t like it, they were throwing me around, but now I appreciate it.”
There were two seniors on the Callaway team in 2015, Cortney Laye and Stephen Curtis, who helped show Jones the ropes.
“I appreciate them tremendously,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be the player I am today.”
As the years passed by, Jones became the mentor, helping the younger offensive linemen make the adjustment to high school.
“I like passing some of the stuff I learned down to different players so they can be better in their game,” Jones said.
Beyond what he has accomplished on the football field, Wiggins said Jones has been an exceptional all-around student as well.
“What they do in the class room, in the hallways, in the community, tells the tale,” Wiggins said. “It tells you a lot about them. KJ, he’s always displayed great character in everything he does. What a role model for people to look up to. What a great player and a great person that Auburn is getting.”