EDISON — Professional athletes aren’t always obligated to give their time speaking to high school students, but for Donald Jones, it’s something he enjoys.
Jones, a former Plainfield High School star football player, and Greg Harris, a retired professional basketball player, spoke to students at Edison HighSchool Tuesday morning, trying to ensure that the students realized that it takes hard work both on and off the field to reach the level of stardom they aspire to reach.
“The whole point of being here today is to express how important excellence on and off the field really is,” Jones said. “Sports ties into life and you learn a lot from the experiences you have playing and we were trying to tie everything in for these kids.”
Jones, who graduated from Plainfield in 2006, recently signed a three-year free agent contract with the New England Patriots, after spending the first three years of his career with the Buffalo Bills.
But being back in New Jersey, where he still makes his off-season home, and speaking with high school students was something that Jones was eager to do when approached by Edison track and field coach Veronica Harris.
“These kids didn’t really know I was from the area until today, a lot of them were shocked to find out,” Jones said.
“Some of them looked me up beforehand and I heard from a few kids on Twitter this morning that they were excited to see me and meet me out here, but I live in Piscataway so I come home every off-season and it’s nice to come home and talk to students from this area. Giving back is not always something that you have to do by giving money; when you can come back and give your time it’s just as valuable.”
After graduating from Plainfield, Jones went to Lackawanna Junior College and then to Youngstown State prior to joining the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2 010 .
Jones is well aware that he’s joining a team capable of competing for a championship this season and what would make it even sweeter would be to play in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium next February in front of his home fans and family members.
“It’s an honor to be in New England, but I know I have a lot of work to do and from what I hear Tom (Brady) is big on hard work and he just wants to win and that’s what I want as well,” Jones said. “I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from him soon to start working out with him and learning the system and earning his trust.”
Harris, Veronica’s brother, played basketball at DeMatha High School in Maryland and then went on to Mount St. Mary’s University, where he helped the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament in 1999.
After graduating in 2000, Greg Harris spent eight seasons in Europe, playing mostly in Belgium and Holland, before retiring in 2008. He currently teaches at Friendship Collegiate Academy just outside of Washington and said he tried to express how important school is to the student athletes from Edison.
“I was trying to say that if you apply yourself academically, you should be able to excel athletically,” Greg Harris said.
“I said to the kids that if they put the same kind of drive that they have on the athletic field into the classroom, they’ll do well on both sides of things.”