Arthur Jones overcame injury, death of sister on path to NFL

The Jones family has produced two other elite athletes: MMA champ Jon and draft-eligible Chandler

January 17, 2012|By Matt Vensel, The Baltimore Sun

It is Christmas Day, and Arthur and Jon Jones are slap-boxing again, two grown adults playfully bobbing, weaving and grappling in front of their parents and children. It was inevitable, really.

Days later, Arthur won't remember what was at stake. Maybe it was the remote control or the last piece of chicken. All the second-year Ravens defensive tackle knows is that, as usual, he got the best of his little brother, who happens to be one of the meanest men inside the Octagon.

Their mother, Camille, who has witnessed this bout a hundred times, said the youngest of the three Jones boys, Chandler, a junior defensive end at Syracuse, knew to stay out of the fray.

"They have grown up?" Camille said sarcastically. "They haven't stopped fighting. Jon has this thing where he always wants to challenge Arthur, just to test his strength. … I don't want to hurt little Jonny's feelings, but he's still not as strong as Arthur. But he keeps trying."

Those brotherly brouhahas back in the day sparked a competitive fire that forged three athletes who are at or near the pinnacle of their respective sports: Arthur, a backup lineman for the 13-4 Ravens, who play the Patriots Sunday for the AFC championship; Jon, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion; and Chandler, who recently announced he will skip his senior season at Syracuse, where he's a defensive end, to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.

Through individual triumphs and family tragedies — the death of their older sister and a fire at their home — the brothers have formed a lasting bond. They have thrived thanks to their religion and strong faith in their family.

"Guys always ask why I smile so much," said Arthur, whose wide grin lights up the Ravens locker room. "I'm healthy. I've got a beautiful family. My parents are both still living. I have so much to be happy and proud about and to smile for. And I play for a great organization, so why not?"

An untimely injury

Like pretty much every player on the Ravens roster, Arthur's road to Baltimore had its hurdles.

Arthur garnered first-team All-Big East honors as a junior at Syracuse. He contemplated leaving for the NFL a year early. Camille urged him to enter the draft — "Way down in my heart, I was thinking 'Please leave! Take the money! And run!'" she said — but she left the decision to him.

He chose to stay in school so he could finish his degree and try to help the Orange get to a bowl game. He would also get a chance to play with Chandler, who would enroll at Syracuse in the fall.

Within a month of announcing he was staying at Syracuse, Arthur tore a pectoral muscle. The injury prevented him from working out for most of the offseason and still nagged him during the season.

About two months after he sustained the injury, an electrical fire started in the laundry room in his parents' home. The blaze was limited to one room, but the house and many of the family's belongings had smoke damage and the family dog died.

"Bishop was some type of mutt. My dad loved that dog. He took it hard," Arthur said.

In the weeks leading up to Arthur's senior season in 2009, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked him No. 12 on his Big Board (Kiper's list of the top 25 prospects in the nation), which was seven spots behind Ndamukong Suh, whom the Detroit Lions eventually drafted No. 2 overall in 2010.

But playing through an injury that wasn't fully healed, he saw his production dip. He totaled just 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks in nine games before a knee injury ended his season three games early.

"It was just a rough year," said the now-25-year-old, shaking his head. "I just kept smiling and kept having tunnel vision knowing that God has a plan and everything happens for a reason."

When the Ravens selected Arthur in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft, they knew they were getting a tough, selfless and competitive defensive lineman who struggled as a senior due to injury.

"[After] his junior year, Arthur was one of our top 20 rated players based off spring scouting," Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. "[Northeast area scout] Andy Weidl had studied him and really thought highly of him, in terms of a fit in our defensive scheme. … [He] would take on blocks, free guys up, but he also had the ability to make plays on his own."

Arthur said he loves it in Baltimore and he still believes that he made the right decision to stay at Syracuse instead of going pro early. When Chandler, 21, asked his oldest brother for career advice after recording 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a junior, Arthur told him to follow his heart.

"I saw what happened to Art after his junior year and how he got hurt," said Chandler, who is on track to graduate in May. "I would be lying to you if I told you that it didn't [play a part in my decision]. … He told me, 'Remember what happened to me.' But he didn't say to leave or stay."

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