Sacrifice Breeds Success
He took on the physicality of football, mental toughness endured in baseball, and the competition of being one of the best in the classroom. For most, these statements would be perceived as roadblocks or obstacles to achieving success. For Tony, the mere chance to compete against the nation’s best and brightest would incite a relentless drive, taking him on a journey he never imagined would be possible.
Where it all began...
Born November 24, 1997 to proud parents Tony and Natalie Jones.
For the love of the game
Tony began playing baseball for Fossil Park Little League. The game itself came very naturally to him, and while his raw talent and athleticism was undeniable from the moment he picked up the bat, Tony was just happy to be playing the same game as his idols, Sammy Sosa and Bo Jackson. At 6 years old, Tony added football to his list of loves, joining the Northeast Bandits football club. While he had to work harder on developing his football acumen, knowing that he could follow in his Dad’s footsteps was all the motivation he needed to keep pushing.
Foot on the Gas
Through these developmental years, it was clear that pursuing one sport wouldn’t be enough to fulfill Tony’s inner drive and competitive spirit. He continued to pursue baseball with the same level of vigor, commitment, determination, and passion as he did football.
As a father and his coach, Tony Jones Sr. impressed on his son a strong work ethic commonly referred to as “Foot on the Gas” within the family. The idea being that no matter what is going on with your team or game, whether you’re winning or losing, you give everything you have in that moment to get the job done. Attitude alone can turn a game around. This mantra follows Tony throughout both his athletic and academic career, because for Mom, Dad, and Tony, pursuing academic excellence was just as vital, and celebrated, as enhancing his athletic prowess.
Tony hit his 1st grand slam in the 4th grade, Led the division every year in home runs hit and was a 3x Offensive Player of the City District, 2005 Flyweight Football Champions.
From first downs to stealing bases, Tony Jones Jr. remained at the top of his class leading the division in home runs and rushing yards. As a baseball player, Tony had always emoted an inner confidence, but it wasn’t until he turned 12 that he noticed a change in how he approached the game of football. He was getting stronger, faster, and harder to take down - for Tony there was no looking back.
Strong Approach & Always Fall Forward
Jones found instant success as a dual-sport athlete at St. Pete Catholic High School, playing on both Varsity baseball and football teams during his freshman year. With injury plaguing the backfield, Head Coach and god-father, Frank Hartley, enlisted Tony for his toughest assignment yet, carrying the offensive load as the starting running back, in addition to his defensive duties as a linebacker. As successful of a year and a half it was for No. 4, the wear and tear Tony’s body quickly became a concern for all of those involved.
It was at this time that Tony Jones Sr. heard about IMG Academy’s victory over local powerhouse Clearwater Central Catholic, and was intrigued to learn more. Conversations were had with both football and baseball directors, Chris Weinke and Dan Simonds, followed by a visit to campus. This opened Tony and his family’s eyes to the possibility of what he could accomplish if he were to enroll. While they knew personal and financial sacrifices would have to be made, they all agreed that IMG Academy was the only environment that could cater Tony’s needs academically, athletically, and from a personal development standpoint.
Making His Presence Known
Tony Jones Jr. enrolled at IMG Academy as a dual-sport athlete during the second semester of his sophomore year, dedicating his time and energy to training full-time as both a baseball and football student-athlete.
After a successful first year at IMG in both baseball and football, Tony traveled to South Bend alongside his Mom and Dad for his official visit at University of Notre Dame. There he was introduced to what it meant to be a part of such a prestigious academic and athletic institution. It was evident to both Natalie and Tony Jones Sr. that their son had become captivated with the legacy of the Fighting Irish. After speaking with both football coach Brian Kelly and baseball coach Mik Aoki, Tony was offered the opportunity to continue his life-long dream of playing baseball and football at the collegiate level for the University of Notre Dame. He verbally committed prior to heading back to IMG Academy.
The Results of Hardwork
Varsity Baseball Sophomore, Junior Year
He is described by both Dan Simonds and hitting coach, John-Ford Griffin, as a natural to the game. His aggressive approach at the plate paired with sheer power created by his bat speed, makes him a D-1 caliber player, if not a potential pick in the 2016 MLB Draft this June. After his junior year, Tony led the program with a batting average of .471 scoring 17 runs, 13 RBI’s, 11 stolen bases and 2 homeruns. With an on-base percentage of .557, Tony’s upcoming senior season looks to be a fun one to watch.
Varsity Football Junior, Senior Year
The downhill back ran for a total of 1,285 yards and averaging a total of 8.9 yards per carry. He rushed for 100+yards in seven games and scored 25 total touchdowns - 23 of those were rushing. Under the Friday night lights, Tony recorded a number of memorable runs during his final season at IMG, including one that caught the eye of ESPN and was aired on that night’s Sportscenter Top 10. The four-star recruit ended his high school career joining teammates, QB Shea Patterson and TE Isaac Nauta, as the first IMG Academy players to be nominated and to play in the U.S. Army All-American game.