District honors NFL’s Nate Jones ’00; retires #22

by Amanda Malool
In June, 2000, Nate Jones was graduating Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. In June, 2012, his jersey was being retired to mark his outstanding academic and athletic career; the first jersey in the football program at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.

“It was one of my most special moments. I’m blessed and humbled by this very cool experience,” said Jones, following the ceremony.
In high school, Jones rushed for more than 2,470 yards, scored 36 touchdowns, and recorded more than 120 tackles and six interceptions as a running back and
defensive back.
He attended Rutgers University, where he lettered in football and track. He was named Big East Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and College Football’s 2003
National Scholar-Athlete, one of only eight players in the nation to earn that distinction.
Jones was picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League draft in 2004.
He then proceeded to play for the Miami Dolphins,  the Denver Broncos and most recently, the New England Patriots. Jones has played in the NFL for eight years, about six more years than the average running back.
He played in Super Bowl XLVI
with the Patriots, which was “So far, my favorite. Most guys don’t
get that experience,” said Jones.
Jones also excelled in his academic career in high school and college, and his success as a student played a part in the district’s decision to honor him.
“It’s not one or the other. Being an athlete means succeeding on both ends of the spectrum, athletics and academics. That’s who Nate Jones is. I hope his legacy continues for being genuine and having an outstanding academic side,” said athletic director Ryan Miller.  Jones had a 3.8 GPA in high school, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in business, interned at Merrill Lynch and took classes at Harvard Business School.
“Academics are more important in the long run,” said Jones, when giving advice to current players on how to balance sports and
school work.
One of his high school coaches, Erik Rosenmeier, now the head football coach in Cranford, recalls the hard work and dedication Jones always showed. “He was probably the most curious athlete that I have ever coached. He asked a million questions from the very basic to pretty complex. This became almost annoying, but then I began to understand that he was not trying to be annoying, but he wanted to know things. I also recall rarely having to tell him the same thing twice,” said Rosenmeier.
Jones’s ability also affected the Raider athletes who followed him. “Watching Nate Jones play when I was in elementary school was one of the reasons I started playing football in the first place, so I was profoundly honored to wear the number 22,” said Greg Brand ’07, a running back for the Raiders.
“When I was in elementary school, my mom had Nate Jones as a student. After seeing how much my friends and I loved watching him play, she made these ‘Greg’s Birthday’ certificates, signed by Nate Jones and pasted onto Styrofoam board, for me and my friends. Mine was the coolest, though, because he wrote ‘Happy birthday, Greg’ on it,” said Brand. “I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be awesome to have when he makes it to the NFL.”
Jones is frequently asked to explain his success, and always credits others. “I’d like to say always have fun. Always remember to enjoy your time now with the team. I was influenced so much by my coaches-Steve Ciccotelli, Rich McGriff, Rob Harmer and Erik Rosenmeier. Also by everybody that was around me, the community, the high school, my PAL team, my family. They all played an equal part in my success,” said Jones.
Jones is currently undecided on his plans for the future, but will be followed closely by his fans.
“There is no doubt that his achievements, both on and off the field, are worthy of the utmost admiration and respect,” said Brand.