Remarkable weekend ahead for Ravens defender Arthur Jones and his athletic family

Jones will play against his brother, Chandler, on Sunday, the night after their brother, Jon, defends his UFC title

September 20, 2012|By Childs Walker | The Baltimore Sun

Arthur Jones III could easily take his answer in a somber direction.

The Ravens defensive end has just been asked to imagine how his mother, blind from diabetes the last three years, will experience Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

Instead of talking about what Camille Jones has lost, however, he describes how mightily she'll cheer as his fiancee narrates the plays for her.

"I swear I can hear her voice," he says. "She kind of has her own personal vision in her brain of how everything is going down."

What a vision she's about to take on.

It's not clear that any athletic family has experienced a weekend quite like the one awaiting the Joneses. On Saturday night in Toronto, middle brother Jon will attempt his fourth defense of the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title. The next evening in Baltimore, eldest brother Arthur III will line up for the Ravens against little brother Chandler, a rookie defensive end for the Patriots.

Parents Arthur Jr. and Camille will attend both the fight and the game. On Thursday, they drove to Washington from their home near Binghamton, N.Y., dropped their car at the airport and flew to Toronto. They'll fly back Sunday morning, along with Jon, in plenty of time to catch the Ravens and Patriots.

"It's a weekend to look forward to," says Camille. "Like Christmas."

Her lack of bitterness echoes her son's. She never got to see Jon win the light heavyweight title or Chandler don a Patriots jersey as the team's No. 1 pick (21st overall). But you won't hear her complain.

This is a family that has endured more than its share of hardship along with the remarkable blessings. When the boys were in grade school, they watched their older sister Carmen — a tough yet nurturing spirit who kept them in line — waste away from brain cancer. She died just before her 18th birthday.

Then, their father needed open-heart surgery, and their mother lost her sight. An electrical fire in the laundry room killed the family dog, Bishop.

It would be entirely understandable if gloom pervaded the family narrative. But somehow, the Joneses sound like the most upbeat people in the world.

"People ask me, 'Do you get depressed?'" says Arthur Jr. "And I say, 'No, we're coming along real good. We have three boys doing great things, a new house, a new dog.' I don't have time to be depressed."

Arthur III, 26, answers every question, even the ones about tough times, with a gentle smile.

"It's a blessing to have a mom and dad who love us so much and have an opportunity to watch us grow up as men," he says when asked to pinpoint the common denominator between him, Jon and Chandler. "I see myself as a reflection of my parents. One thing my brothers and I take pride in is making my parents' name great."

Jon, 25, gives a similar response when asked about this weekend, saying, "It's just good for my parents to see their sons panning out this way."

Brotherly competition

The Jones brothers grew up sheltered in a house where the television was rarely on and Thursday nights were set aside for family card games. Arthur Jr. is a Pentecostal pastor at Mount Sinai Church of God in Christ, and Camille worked with developmentally disabled children until her blindness became debilitating.

Their boys toughened each other up, wrestling after school on the mats their father laid in the basement of the family's duplex. Arthur Jr. had been a wrestler himself, so he liked to tussle as well, telling the boys to fight back instead of crying.

But out of competition, they were expected to hold doors and say "yes sir" and "no sir" to their elders. To this day, none speak with the bravado common to fighters and NFL defenders.

"They grew up in the church," Arthur Jr. says. "Their grandfather was a pastor, so they had to learn how to treat people."

Shane Hurd, who coached all three boys at Union-Endicott High School (also the alma mater of Orioles closer Jim Johnson), confirms their father's description.

"When you saw them in the hallway, they were always smiling," Hurd remembers. "They were almost champions of the little guy, not your stereotypical jocks who thought they were better than anyone. I think it had a lot to do with being around the church."

On Mother's Day two years ago, Hurd received a text from Chandler, then a star at Syracuse, wishing the high school coach's wife a happy day.

"That's the kind of kids they are," Hurd says. "They never change."

From talking to the brothers, their parents and Hurd, a consensus description emerges for each Jones.

Arthur III was the mellow, serious older brother — gentlest guy in the world with his tight circle of friends but able to flip a switch and become a grizzly bear when he took the football field or wrestling mat.

Jon was the life of the party, the one who sneaked out of his bedroom window at night and attempted crazy stunts like cliff diving. Camille worried about him more than the others.

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