When told his son Malcolm would be awarded the Gatorade National Player of the Year award on Thursday a few days ago, Marshall Jones, Sr. just laughed.
He laughed because he knew of the rather demure reaction his son, the Oaks Christian of Westlake Village senior running back, had when he was told he had won the state player of the year award.
He laughed because he just knew Malcolm would just let this accolade slide off his back again.
“I cracked up, I couldn’t believe it,” Marshall Jones, Sr., said before the ceremony at a special Oaks Christian assembly on Thursday morning. “I knew when Malcolm was told about the state award, his reaction was, ‘Oh, did I win state or national?’ Wow, who in their right mind would sit back and think, instead of being overwhelmed with state, wondering whether or not he won national?”
Something was different, though.
Jones was overwhelmed, more so than he’s ever been.
All it took was flashing cameras, a massive trophy, and the American League most valuable player.
When former Gatorade player of the year Joe Mauer entered Jones’ classroom on Thursday morning to present him with the award, Jones knew something was up.
“It was all emotion – I was in so much shock,” said Jones, whose 13-0 Lions travel to 13-0 Gardena Serra for the Southern Section Northwest Division Championship tonight at 7:30 p.m. “I thought to myself that I wasn’t going to win the award at all. When they told me, I couldn’t help but cry.”
Funny thing: Jones has been making his opponents cry all year.
Capping off a stunning career at Oaks Christian that has included three section titles and a state title in his freshman year – a performance against Cardinal Newman that included 15 tackles and a 64-yard interception return for touchdown in the place of the injured Marc Tyler – Jones went out with a bang.
Entering tonight’s contest with Serra, Jones has 2,156 yards and 36 touchdowns on 198 carries, while mostly playing only in first halves of games, before his coaches pulled him with the game in hand. Jones, a 2010 U.S. Army All-American, also racked up 136 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and three defensive touchdowns.
However, this award honors not just Jones’ performance on the field, but his lofty accomplishments in the classroom and in the community.
Jones maintains a 3.46 grade-point average and announced in early October that he would play for UCLA, choosing the Bruins over expected front-runner Stanford. Additionally, Jones is a peer tutor and a youth basketball volunteer referee.
“He’s realizes I think that he’s really blessed,” Marshall Jones, Sr., said. “He takes his blessings as something he should utilize for the good of himself and others. And that’s what makes me proud of him.
“He’s a better person than he is a football player.”
And he’s a pretty darn good football player, at that.
Though he will enter a crowded backfield at UCLA that includes a number of young running backs battling for playing time, Jones will almost certainly get a chance to compete for a role early. With his combination of size – 6-foot-1, 220 pounds – and speed, Jones could emerge from the group.
“I really wanted to go to a school where I can really make a name for myself, not just be the “next” star running back at a USC or one of those big-time colleges,” Jones said. “I want to prove to everyone that I can really help turn the program around, get them back on top.”
But though Jones carries himself with a maturity beyond his years, it’s easy to forget he is still just a kid.
A kid who brushes off a state player of the year award, but chokes up at the national honor.
“You should have seen the expressions on his face when he was walking out of class,” Oaks Christian quarterback Nick Montana said with a wide smile. “He was with his family, biggest smile on his face; I haven’t seen him smile that in a while. He was tearing up a little bit – it was awesome to see.”