Prowess might define athletic ability, but character is remembered most. Alex Jones, the 2017 Gazette Male Senior Athlete of the Year, not only personified that attribute, he was what coaches pointed to when things got tough.
They certainly were for the Wadsworth standout.
Need an injury? Jones had an anatomy and physiology book full of them.
A broken wrist at the end of football season wasn’t diagnosed until after wrestling as a freshman. Two wrist surgeries knocked out his mat time as a sophomore.
As a junior, he tore his LCL and AC joint in his left shoulder, causing him to forfeit his final football game and a month and a half of wrestling. He also missed what was very likely a top-five time in the 4x100-meter relay in track when he tore a hamstring.
When a separated shoulder in the summer threatened his entire senior season, Jones could have given up.
Instead, he became an All-Gazette selection in football, wrestling and track and field, making him not only the top senior in Medina County, but probably the toughest as well.
“I’ve never seen a more determined kid than Alex,” Wadsworth football coach Justin Todd said. “There’s a lot of intrinsic motivation there. He wants to be great. He wants to maximize his ability. It’s an incredible story.”
The story becomes better considering what Jones overcame. After the separated shoulder in the summer, doctors told him he could forget about football and wrestling and concentrate on maybe getting back in time for track.
Jones doesn’t deal in maybes, which made what he did even more incredible.
“I had a lot more to prove to myself and a lot more goals to accomplish,” said Jones, who will play for Taft Prep in the fall. “I wanted to play college football. Mentally, I became a lot stronger. I was able to bounce back from adversity and handle it.
“The doctor told me I was done with contact sports, but through a lot of physical therapy and late nights, I came back twice as early. I remember a lot of nights I wanted to quit and be done, but I had a lot of friends and family pushing me through it to get it done.”
That attitude brought him back in Week 5 for football against Cuyahoga Falls and all Jones did was rumble 66 yards for a touchdown on the second play.
Jones finished with 131 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in a 35-0 win.
By the time the season was over, the Grizzlies bounced back from a 1-3 start and finished 5-5 while having a puncher’s chance at the Suburban League National Conference title late in the year.
Jones took a team that averaged 11.8 points a game to 37.8 and finished with 738 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in six weeks.
“One of the big things we try to do offensively is create explosive plays, which are plays greater than 20 yards,” Todd said. “Those plays went through the roof once Alex came back. It gave us more than one player that guys had to focus on.
“More than that, Alex was the emotional barometer of our team. You saw that change when he came back. He was the one returning starter. Everything was going to be built around Alex. His character is impeccable. That work ethic is second to none.”
That’s what set him apart. Jones was a two-time state qualifier in wrestling, finishing fifth as a junior and going 31-8 as a senior.
In track, he was a gigantic reason the 4x200 relay finished 11th in Ohio.
“His character is what separates him,” track coach Chris Beery said. “A lot of kids that have gone through what he has gone through, I’m not sure they keep fighting, they keep battling. You saw it in football when he was supposed to be out for the season and came back Week 5.
“Last year with his track season, we had a good chance to get to state and place in the 4x1 and 4x2. For him to bounce back, it’s a testament to his physical toughness and mental toughness as well.”
The toughness is learned through a family known for athletic prowess. Uncle Bob was The Gazette Senior Athlete of the Year in 1997 and played in the NFL. Father Mike played collegiately for Villanova and grandfather Ron was the Wadsworth football coach from 1986-91.
“That environment for sure made me the player I am today,” Alex Jones said. “It gave me the exposure to what was needed to be the best I could be. It taught me the lessons I learned today. I felt that little shadow. I’m always chasing something, but I make it my goal to recognize who I am as a person and attack my goals and not follow their goals.”
In the end, it made him a better teammate as well.
“Whatever it takes, he does it to get to the next level,” football and wrestling teammate Cody Surratt said. “He’s my best friend. He’s my brother. He’s the brother I never had. I don’t think it’s a bond that can be broken.”
The brotherhood Alex Jones created is also one that will be carried on for years no matter what the sport.
“Each year, I always tell the freshmen and sophomores to find an upperclassman on the team who is successful and to model themselves after them,” Beery said. “There’s a reason they’re successful, and Alex was one of those kids that you would point to for direction. With everything he’s been through and the faith and attitude he’s had, it’s something kids should look up to. It’s what people should emulate.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.