Greg Jones: Hometown Day, Pt. 3 - Moeller High School
Sept. 3, 2010
Spartan All-America linebacker Greg Jones visited his hometown of Cincinnati in the summer to speak at the Boys and Girls Club in the Avondale neighborhood. He also took time to catch up with friends and family before the start of the football season and gave a tour of his most memorable places in his hometown. In the final installment of a three-part series on msuspartans.com, Jones stops by Moeller High School, where his football career blossomed, to relive his high school days and also see his former coaches.
Greg Jones speaks to the freshmen football team at Moeller High School before a conditioning session over the summer.
Although Greg enjoyed his middle school years at God's Bible School and College, he also knew he wanted to pursue his promising athletic career during high school, something he couldn't do fully in the intramural programs offered by his existing school. Several high schools in the Cincinnati area showed interest in him, but he ultimately chose to attend Archbishop Moeller, a Catholic school of nearly 1,000 students on the opposite side of town from his house.
Known as a football powerhouse, the Crusader program has won five national titles and seven state championships, including five under Coach Gerry Faust, who went on to become Notre Dame's head coach from 1981-85. Moeller has also developed talents such as Notre Dame All-America linebacker Bob Crable and Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Shane Bullough. It was a perfect fit for Greg to develop his football skills.
But it wasn't the easiest path to success.
The car ride across town along State Highway 126 on this summer afternoon was much like the ones Greg took countless times with his father in the early hours of the morning of every school day. Although Greg Sr. worked multiple jobs all hours of the day - and still does - he made sure to have his morning free to drive his son to school.
"We wanted the best for Greg, and we felt like going to Moeller would give him the best education," Greg Sr. said. "It was tough. Being a parent to your kid, you always have to be behind them. His mother was behind him, I was behind him, and that's important, because we all worked together and all stuck together as a team and did the right thing. It wasn't easy, but nothing comes easy in life if you want to get where you need to be."
"It was hard, seeing him work all the time," said Greg, a thankful son. "After dropping me off in the morning, we wouldn't talk until real late at night when he got back, and then he would have to go to bed to get up the next day. Getting up in the morning is real easy for me now because he was always telling me we have to go do this and do that. I feel like I'm an early riser because of him."
After driving into Moeller's campus toward the athletic complex in the back, Greg took a slow walk up the stairs from the parking lot to the new football practice field. He strolled over to say hello to the coaches on the field, many of them who were there during his high school career.
"We need to teach these boys how to block guys like you," one of the coaches on the field told Greg.
Before the team - a group of wide-eyed freshmen - began their conditioning drills, Greg gave them a talk on what it meant to play at Moeller.
"Moeller has been tremendous to me," he said. "You guys will realize that, maybe not right now, but later on down the line, you realize what you have. Take advantage of every opportunity you have here."
When asked if the youngsters had any idea of what they were getting into, as they started up conditioning drills in the heat on the smoldering field turf, Greg said, "A little bit. For a lot of guys, their older brothers and their dads have been through the program, so they have an idea what's going to happen to them. I think they realize it's being a part of something that's bigger than them."
Greg certainly knew that during his time at Moeller. The two-time All-Greater Catholic League selection learned it from Crable, the all-time leading tackler in the history of the Fighting Irish, who was also the head varsity coach for the Crusaders for eight seasons from 2000-07.
"I told Coach Dantonio when he was recruiting Greg two things," Crable remarked. "Number one, you're not going to find a kid who works harder than Greg Jones. And number two, as far as loyalty, character, he was a kid as solid as I've ever been around.
"There's no one more deserving, no one more involved in what goes on in the community, and no one more thankful," said Crable, regarding Greg's visit to the Boys and Girls Club. "That's one of the greatest attributes I think that he has, is his gratitude, and really his graciousness toward everything that's gone on in his life."
"That's really who Greg is," commented Barry Borman, athletics director at Moeller High School, on Greg's interaction with the youth in Avondale earlier in the day. "He's a guy who understands the struggle that kids have. You can have great success if you work hard and have a great attitude. I think you couldn't have a better role model than Greg Jones for young people today."
As far as on the football field at Moeller, Greg's game was described much like his career at Michigan State.
"An impact player," Crable simply said.
"Athletically, he was so superior that he just made play after play," reflected Borman. "He had great vision, he had great anticipation, and along with his great athletic ability, it really made him a superb football player. He was all over the field and made plays everywhere."
Greg's father put together a collection of photos from his high school days at Moeller High School for the Boys and Girls Club presentation.
The All-American certainly didn't go unnoticed by many at his former high school. Countless aspiring football players, undoubtedly following his successful college career, came up and had a conversation with him, from the practice field to the parking lot to the weight room.
"I see you on TV all the time," Greg heard from several players.
He began his tour of the inside of the high school in what most resembled an old field house. It's not only where he played basketball, but also music. At God's Bible School and College, he learned to play the flute for two years before moving on to the trumpet. He continued to play at Moeller his freshman year, even making a brief stint in the marching band, although he preferred to be in a "concert-type situation."
Once he reached the varsity football team as a sophomore, however, a decision had to be made.
"My freshman year, my coach would get so mad that I would be late for football practice from band," said Greg, laughing, as he thought back to those days. "Eventually, he was cool about it. But by my sophomore year, I made it to varsity, and Coach Crable didn't like that at all (being late). He made me choose, and obviously, I chose football."
After almost reaching the exit of the indoor facility, Greg stopped and pointed to the second level in the corner, which appeared to be nothing more than a dark, dingy storage area.
"That's where Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larking used to take (indoor) batting practice," he said.
Moeller is definitely not a hard place to find inspiration.
His walk continued to the football locker room, where he tapped the sign that read, "Your talent is your gift from God, How you use that talent is your Gift to God", and headed down the stairs. Greg shared a few stories with his old high school coaches before walking past the regular PE locker room and into the hallway of the school.
His first stop was upstairs to see his class picture. He also glanced into the gym, where his basketball career had a bittersweet ending.
He hurt his hand playing basketball his junior year, and that was that. Greg decided to focus on football his senior year. It just so happens the one year he didn't play, the Crusaders went on to win the 2007 state championship.
The school's rich athletic history is on display in the Gerry Faust Hall of Fame. Plaques of Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Bob Crable, Shane Bullough and several others greet the students of Moeller every day. Possibly someday, Greg will be added this to impressive list of standout athletes. But before he can even think what his plaque might look like on the wall, he heard a voice down the hall, and it's an old teammate.
After finishing up his conversation with a long-lost friend, Greg smiled as if to say, "Wow, what a day. But that's about it. It's time to go and move on."
Greg knows there's more to his life on the road in front of him than in the rearview mirror. But he also knows the path ahead can be navigated more easily with the help of people along life's journey. He has never forgotten his friends and family in his hometown upon becoming an All-America linebacker at Michigan State with a promising future in the NFL. His positive and faithful demeanor, which permeates into all facets of his interaction with others, continues to be a source of inspiration, especially for those who had the fortune of running into him that one summer day in Cincinnati.
Written by Ben Phlegar, MSU Athletic Communications. Videos by David Diffenderffer, MSU Athletic Communications.
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