Alabama had a pretty good idea of what it was getting when it recruited Barrett Jones out of Evangelical Christian School in Germantown, Tenn., in 2008. Scout.com had ranked him the 18th best lineman in the nation, a four-star prospect, and the top prospect in the state of Tennessee. There was a question of where he might play. He was projected as a tackle by some, a center by others.
As it turned out, he could have been projected at any position on the offensive line, because he has been a star at guard, tackle, and center.
And after what is perhaps the most star-studded career in storied Crimson Tide football history, Alabama Coach Nick Saban suggested another position.
“He has all the right stuff,” Saban said. “If we were still trying to get to the moon, Barrett Jones would be my first nomination to be the astronaut to get us there.”
At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Jones might find the space capsule a bit crowded. Almost as crowded as his trophy case.
Jones, the son of former Alabama basketball player Rex Jones, has had an extraordinary career. As a redshirt freshman in 2009 he started for the national champion Tide at right guard, where he was Freshman All-America. In 2011, another national championship season, he moved to left tackle, and was an All-America and winner of the Outland Award as the nation’s best lineman. Southeastern Conference coaches selected him as winner of the Jacobs Trophy, awarded to the best blocker in the SEC. As a senior in 2012 playing for a third national championship, he moved to center, and was awarded the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and a unanimous All-America.
Jones did everything asked of him, and it wasn’t always easy. “The job of learning the center position as a senior has been one of the most difficult challenges of my career, but also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding,” he said.
There is a question mark as Alabama prepares for its BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame next week. In the Tide’s win over Georgia for the SEC championship – a play-in game for the national title game at Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7 – Jones suffered a sprained foot. He has not practiced in Bama’s first 10 workouts. He has been keeping his conditioning up on the stationary bike, swimming, and in the weight room. Saban said he might be able to practice when the team gets to South Florida and begins preparation there on Thursday.
In his four years as a starter, Bama has already won two national championships (with the possibility of a third), two SEC championships, and had a record of 48-5.
Off the field work was just as impressive.
Jones already has his master’s degree. He earned his undergraduate degree in accounting and graduate degree in accountancy, and never had a grade other than A.
He was the first four-time Academic All-American in Bama history. He was selected as the 2012 Capital One Academic All-American of the Year and the 2012 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He was a member of the University Honors Program, inducted into eight different honoraries, a three-time recipient of the Commitment to Academic Excellence Award, and selected the 2012 Paul W. Bryant Student-Athlete of the Year.
His team honors included “Jerry Duncan I Like To Practice Award,” the “Derrick Thomas Community Service Award,” and the “Mal Moore Leadership Award.”
At Bama’s post-season award banquet he was a Senior Scholar and elected permanent team captain.
The 2011 Wuerffel Trophy winner and member of the 2012 AFCA Good Works Team, Jones has participated in two mission trips to Haiti and one to Nicaragua, distributing food, working at schools and orphanages and helping with construction projects. He led volunteer efforts to help those who were victims of the 2011 tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa. He is a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and he served as a volunteer tutor at a Tuscaloosa elementary school, and acted as a student mentor for the Dean of Students office.
He did not win the Heisman Trophy, but at the National Football Foundation’s annual banquet at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York in December, Jones was named the winner of the 2012 William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the absolute best scholar-athlete in the nation. It is often called the “Academic Heisman.”
"Barrett is perhaps one of the greatest scholar-athletes to have ever played the game, and we are so proud to honor him tonight," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "The 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete class is one of the best ever, and for Barrett to stand above them all really says a lot about his accomplishments. He has a perfect 4.0 GPA and an All-American football career while still significantly giving back to the community - he was the clear choice as the best scholar-athlete in college football."
Joe Pendry, who coached in championship college and NFL programs for 30 years and was Bama’s offensive line coach in Barrett’s first two seasons, said, “He’s a 4.0 off the field and a 5.0 on the field. He’s as bright a football player as I’ve ever coached.”
Nick Saban has coached a lot of players. Forty years of coaching. Thirteen different teams at the college and professional levels. That’s a lot of players. Hundreds and hundreds.
But despite the faces and names that have crossed his path on the field, Saban says that when all is said and done and he looks back upon his career and all the athletes he’s coached, Barrett Jones stands out.
“Whether Barrett Jones was a football player or not, I think he would be one of the finest people anybody would have the opportunity to meet,” Saban said.
“Barrett Jones is one of those people that if I start thinking what five players did I ever coach that was as good a person as I’ve ever been around in terms of his actions, how he did things, the example he set, the quality of performance he had, personally, academically, athletically, whatever he chose to do, he would be one of the finest players I ever had the opportunity to coach. Just not very many people like him. He's special.”
As a senior, Jones grew closer to Saban, spending time in his office talking about things beyond Xs and Os. “More conceptual things, the pulse, how we can do a better job,” Jones said.
It is difficult to imagine Barrett Jones doing a better job.