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Family values ensure St. Petersburg's David Jones is the perfect blend of student and athlete

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Mon. January 9, 2012 | Bob Putnam | Email

Family values ensure St. Petersburg's David Jones is the perfect blend of student and athlete

ST. PETERSBURG — David Jones’ job description on the football field reads: quarterback/running back/wide receiver/defensive back/kick returner.

His athletic endeavors do not end there. The St. Petersburg High School senior also is a star in basketball and track, and a captain in all three sports.

His academic resume is just as impressive. He holds a 4.2 weighted grade point average, taking mostly honors and advanced-placement courses.

Jones’ ability to manage athletics and academics has resulted in a steady stream of letters from colleges, including some that are excruciatingly selective such as Georgetown, Harvard and Richmond.

Throughout his yearlong recruiting process as a football prospect, Jones has repeated the same theme: fortune has smiled upon him.

Whether the discussion concerns his athletic ability or his intelligence, Jones assiduously sidesteps full credit.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said.

The student-athlete role was instilled by his parents.

His father, Mike, an assistant football coach at St. Petersburg High, played soccer, but was forced to give up the sport at a young age because his grades were suffering. Mike wanted to make sure David had the right balance.

David never got to know his mother, Doris Stroman, who was killed in a car accident on her way to work Dec. 29, 1994, when he was just 1.

“I don’t really know anything about her,” he said. “I just know stories other family members would tell me.”

Two years later, Mike married Nycole Elington-Jones, a business math and critical thinking teacher at St. Petersburg High.

“I always wanted to be a part of David’s life, and felt as if he was a bonus child,” said Nycole, who has two daughters, Kennedy and Sydney, with Mike. “It’s a true blessing to have him because he’s such an all-around (good) kid.”

David’s first venture into athletics came on the soccer field. It was not for him.

“I can’t say I really played,” he said. “I just ran around for a minute.”

So David chose football. He not only played in youth leagues, he starred. In eighth grade he played basketball. He came out for track as a sophomore in high school only because the coach, a deacon at the family’s church, encouraged him to give it a shot.

Because of his myriad of activities, high school indulgences such as sleeping in and hanging out with buddies do not always fit in during the school year. There are seminars and labs not to mention practices.

David the student and David the athlete come together every school day, as he shuttles between books and footballs to outdistance a stacked field and earn a scholarship.

“My parents have stressed academics,” David said. “But honestly, I’ve done a lot on my own, too. I probably spend about three to four hours each night either doing homework or studying for a test.

“Sometimes I complain. I question why I’m playing all these sports and doing all this work. But I know that it’s all going to pay off in the end.”

David’s parents have been just as involved in the recruiting process. Talk too much football to Nycole, too little academics to Mike, too much of the usual line to both of them, and good-bye prospect.

The Joneses are friendly people, but they have ideals, too. And they want to keep them, even if one in their midst is a sought-after recruit.

“We’ve been stringent as far as the education aspect,” Nycole said. “We want David to excel in the classroom, but we can only take partial credit. He’s done a lot of this on his own.

“We just try to raise the standards, not only in the classroom but also in life. And if the grades are there, you can choose the school and not have the school choose you.”

At first, the recruiting process was hectic, with coaches dropping by to talk to David during school hours, but that was interrupting his time in the classroom. So his parents decided that recruiters could only talk to David during seventh period (David is his mother’s teaching assistant) or after school.

David has not decided on a college and could wait until after national signing day Feb. 1 to make his choice official. He holds out hope of attending Harvard and is waiting for his ACT results.

For now, David keeps playing — and studying.

“We have a lot of individuals on the team who are high academic kids,” St. Petersburg football coach Joe Fabrizio said. “But David fits that role of student-athlete as well as anyone here. We use him all the time as an example for other students, especially considering he juggles three sports.

“He’s also well-liked by everyone. He was voted Mr. St. Petersburg. And the great thing is he is so humble. He walks around here like any other student. There are not too many like David Jones.”

Bob Putnam can be reached at putnam@tampabay.com.

Photo: The Jones family from left: 8th-grade daughter Kennedy, father Mike, mom Nycole, senior son David and 6th-grade daughter Sydney.

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