This article originally appeared in the Cal Kickoff Gameday Magazine, Oct. 13, 2011
By Tim Miguel
Kiesau left the Cal coaching staff following the 2005 season to become a member of the Colorado coaching staff. While he was there, he recruited Jones but luckily for Cal, Jones and now Kiesau, the Fontana, Calif. native, chose to stay close to home and became a Golden Bear.
Fast forward to 2011 and the first season of his second stint at Cal, and Kiesau is finally getting the chance to work with the recruit he originally wanted out of high school. While Kiesau was the offensive coordinator in Boulder during the last two seasons of his five-year run with the Buffs that ended after the 2010 campaign, Jones was busy leading the Bears in both receptions and receiving yards each of those campaigns.
Last year, Kiesau got an up close look at Jones when he torched the Colorado defense for a 62-yard reception that is the longest of his illustrious collegiate career.
Jones continued right where he left off last year with two touchdowns against Fresno State in the season opening Battle by the Bay on Sept. 3 at Candlestick Park. Jones had five catches for 118 yards in the contest to register 100 yards receiving for the fifth time in his career. He came back the following week at Colorado and recorded the 100th catch of his career. He then registered his sixth 100-yard receiving game the following week against Presbyterian with season-highs of seven catches for 123 yards.
"It was great, I was kind of numb about it," Jones said of reach the 100-catch milestone that he has since added to. "I'm happy that it happened, but it doesn't feel like I've been here long enough to do something like that. It's a great accomplishment. Being a senior on the team, and after the season we had last year, it was huge for us to start fast. It was also big for my personal goals, as well."
Jones raised the bar sky high with his goals for 2011. Not only does he expect the Bears to compete for a Pac-12 title, but he also personally wants to lead the nation in every receiving category. Leading the nation will be difficult, but Jones is rapidly climbing the Bears' all-time charts and by time his career ends at the conclusion of this season, he should indeed finish among the school's career top 10 in every receiving category.
Kiesau would not expect anything less than lofty goals for his pupil whom he was ecstatic to get the chance to coach, even if for just one season.
"He was one of the first calls I made when I came back," Kiesau said. "I said to him, `I told you I'd be coaching you at some point.' I'm really happy to have the chance to coach him. Building and maintaining my relationship with him was one of my first priorities when I came back. It's nice to see that I wasn't wrong about him."
Jones has had to deal with a lot challenges heading into his final year as Bear, from the transition of wide receiver coaches, moving practices from Memorial Stadium to several places last spring to Witter Rugby Field this fall, and playing his 2011 home games at San Francisco's AT&T Park.
But for Jones, part of being a senior and a veteran leader for not only the other receivers but the rest of the entire team means being able to learn how to roll with the punches. He has an uncanny ability to seemingly take everything in stride.
"There will always be constant changes in life," Jones said. "I'm good at reacting to change. In spring ball, it seemed like we were practicing somewhere new every day. As long as we were all together, it didn't matter to me where we practiced."
Still, as much as he enjoys playing at a venue as majestic as AT&T Park, Jones said there is nothing that can compare to a Saturday gameday at Memorial Stadium.
"I remember my first game there, the season opener (2008) against Michigan State as a true freshman," Jones said. "Everybody was yelling, we were under the lights, it was great. I memorized where I needed to be based on my surroundings in the stadium. You can't take away a home field advantage like that. I know we're working on something bigger and better for the future with the high performance center, and AT&T Park is nice, but you can't beat Memorial Stadium."
Even before dealing with all the changes in scenery, Jones was already no stranger to challenges. During his freshman season, he suffered a knee injury in practice between the team's third and fourth games of the year that kept him out of game action for more than two months. Jones thought he was in store for a big season on the field, but even when he was cleared to return to action, he was still held out of games for precautionary reasons. However, Jones was allowed to travel with the team, which gave him the opportunity to see what the action was like from a different perspective on the sideline. It's an experience that he credits to helping him gain some of the knowledge he now employs.
Besides the advantages of going to a school with great academics and athletics and being close to home, Jones said he chose Cal because of the campus environment in Berkeley. Jones also said he really made a connection with head coach Jeff Tedford and then-wide receivers coach Dan Ferrigno when he made his visit to Cal.
"I had a great relationship with coach Ferrigno and coach Tedford," Jones said. "It's only a five hour drive from So Cal, and I didn't want to be far from home. It's a great mix of academics and athletics, the people are great and it's a good football school."
Tedford and Ferrigno must have seen early what everybody sees in Jones now. Kiesau recalled a time during practice earlier this season when the team was running sprints. There was a linebacker who was running faster than Jones. Kiesau cracked a joke to Jones, all in good humor, about how he was losing to a linebacker. From that point on, Jones has made sure to beat that linebacker every time the team runs sprints.
That's an example, according to Kiesau, about how Jones is great at leading by example.
"He has so many good qualities," Kiesau said. "He was very polished out of high school. He's been lucky to have other great coaches at Cal work with him in the past. He has an impeccable work ethic. He's a perfectionist, and it really helps make him a special player. He leads by example with his work ethic and never misses a rep. The guys really notice that."
Just as much as Jones depends on Kiesau for leadership and guidance, Kiesau needed Jones when he first returned to Berkeley. It was imperative for Kiesau to build an instant rapport with Jones in order to gain the trust of the rest of the receivers. Kiesau realized how much the players look up to Jones, so taking advantage of that common ground was critical for Kiesau to get the other receivers on board with what he wanted to teach them.
Those relationships that Jones has built with Kiesau, the rest of the coaching staff and his teammates is what he will miss the most about Cal.
"You bond with everybody here and build relationships over time," Jones said. "I'll miss having fun in the locker room. Once you're out of college, you're in the real world and everything becomes like a business. Everybody's real in college."
Whether or not Jones has a long and productive NFL career as many believe he will remains to be seen, but even if a pro football career is not in the cards, it will not stop him from being successful. Considering all the challenges he has met at Cal, there is no reason to think there is anything in the real world he wouldn't be able to handle.
"I want to get my hands in as many different things as I can," Jones said about his non-football goals. "I want to experience life as a man with a Cal degree. Anything can happen in life. I want to help intercity kids get educated and teach them about life and sports. Beyond that, I want to provide for my family and be a professional."