Leading the way: Former Bull named Panthers’ captain

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, September 8, 2018
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Special Honor

SPECIAL HONOR – At the start of his eighth NFL season, Colin Jones was named one of the Carolina Panthers’ six captains. The Bridgeport alum is the first special teams captain for the team since 2012. Photo courtesy Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/Carolina Panthers

Coming out of TCU, Colin Jones earned his way onto the field with the San Francisco 49ers with his play on special teams.

Eight NFL seasons later, the Bridgeport alum will open the season Sunday as the special teams captain for the Carolina Panthers. His Panthers open the season in Charlotte against the Dallas Cowboys.

Jones was one of six captains named by the Panthers alongside NFL stars Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Luke Kuechly, Julius Peppers and Ryan Kalil. It is the first time since 2012 the team has named a captain from the special teams unit.

“That means a lot to be able to represent the team and special teams,” Jones said. “I’ve been here a long time and have seen a lot of people come and go.”

Jones thanked the Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera for his emphasis on special teams.

“You look and the perennial playoff teams are at the top of the league in special teams. It’s the hidden element, but a big part of the game,” Jones said.

It’s the portion of the game that allowed the safety to grow into a veteran player in the tough league.

“Special teams allotted me a lot of time to develop as a football player,” he said. “My first year in the league, I was strictly a special teams player. It allowed me to continue my upward trajectory. It’s a credit to Coach [Gary] Patterson at TCU. Even as starters at TCU, we played special teams. He said one day, we’d thank him for it.”

Jones is coming off one of his top seasons in the league. He played in 16 games, starting seven. He made 21 tackles, including four on special teams. He also picked off a pass.

He was on the Panthers’ Super Bowl squad in 2015.

After a shorter practice day on Thursday that afforded him a chance to shoot his bow and spend more time with 1-year-old son, Jones reflected on opening his eighth season.

“Time goes fast,” said the 30-year-old. “Every year you can look back and see the different teams you’ve played. I’ve played in every stadium but Cleveland.

“I’m so blessed. My wife never gets enough credit. She’s a driving force for me having this career.”

He said this year has been a joy having his son around at training camp, and Jones looks forward to him attending games.

“It’s been such a long journey from Bridgeport,” Jones said.

Along with wearing the captain “C” for the first time, Sunday’s opening game will be special for Jones, getting a chance to play the team he grew up cheering for, the Cowboys.

“It’s really special. It was special playing in Dallas on Thanksgiving a few years ago with so many people in attendance that I know,” Jones said. “Also, it’s fun knowing Cole Beasley, playing him in high school and talking back and forth.”

Jones will have at least one fan from Bridgeport in attendance Sunday, his high school coach Danny Henson. The retired Bulls coach is heading to Charlotte to see Jones in action and will be decked out in Panthers gear.

“His whole career has been a joy to watch, first seeing how he played at TCU to now his great accomplishments in the NFL,” Henson said.

Henson is also honored to see one of his former players be named a captain. Jones was picked by his Bridgeport teammates as a captain for the Bulls during their long playoff runs in the early 2000s, when he was a record-setting running back. Jones rushed for a career total of 4,122 yards and 57 touchdowns at Bridgeport.

“Anyone in Bridgeport is not surprised,” Henson said.

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