SMITH COLUMN: Jonas, giving back

Published 11:30 am Friday, November 18, 2022

Somewhere along the way in recent years, I saw an interesting statement that has been retained and is especially remembered during the Thanksgiving season.

While the details are difficult to recall with specifics, there was the statement that those who have less give more. Those with the largest assets or greatest accumulation, percentage-wise, give less.

I am always thankful during the Thanksgiving season for those who do for others. The charitable organizations, the food banks and individuals who give priority to seeing that families in need are the beneficiary of a good meal at Thanksgiving.

Jonas Jennings, who is Director of Player Development for the Georgia football team, has given countless hours to extend a helping hand to the families in the Tri-Cities area of Hapeville, College Park and East Point.

If you know the story of his altruism, you know that his influence to share with others was stimulated by his mother Nettie Sumlin. While she was not blessed with abundant assets, she had a giving and loving heart. When Jonas’ friends came to his house, they were always included when mealtime came about.

Her influence had a consequential influence on Jonas. It began with her impact on him as a person. Treat people right, share what you have and be a good student.

That last reference was extremely important to his mother. Jonas, as an accomplished athlete, has won a number of awards and has accumulated trophies, plaques, rings and watches. She doesn’t care how many citations have come his way—they are for him to do as he wishes—but his academic and philanthropic awards she has kept for herself. That should tell you something about her philosophy.

This is why a story about his athletic achievements as a football player is not as important to her as his Thanksgiving initiative. Each November, Jonas finds a way to raise enough money to make sure all his friends and neighbors in the Tri-Cities help him make sure that every resident gets a turkey for Thanksgiving.

During his time at Georgia, he has kept an eye out for ways to help his hometown(s). He has raised money and has worked with food suppliers to feed hundreds of families in the Tri-Cities the last Thursday in November.

If you know Jonas, you can’t help but like him. You hear him before you see him. He is a big man with a big laugh. There is a warmth in his makeup that gives off a “feel good” emotion that this eight-year veteran of the National Football League has a heart as big as he is—a 280-pound lineman who could move defensive players about with abandon during his time in the NFL.

When he played at Georgia, lettering in 97-2000, he was recognized as a good teammate by all who knew him, including Kirby Smart who played with Jonas although Kirby, as a defensive back, lined up on the opposite side of the ball.

A very good student, Jonas was given to doing what he could to help his teammates with any academic need which included writing papers. With a maturity that was exceptional, he influenced his teammates to stay out of trouble and to apply diligence to earning a degree.