This story originally appeared in the Cal Kickoff Football Gameday Magazine on Sept. 17, 2011
Last summer, senior wide receiver Marvin Jones knew that he would be sharing the field with a highly-touted incoming freshman in Keenan Allen. A year later, he did not expect their relationship off the field would become so strong that Jones would become a mentor, musical partner and best friend to Allen.
Allen could not ask for a better guide than Jones, who remained consistent in his production on the field - including leading the Bears in receptions and receiving yards last season - while helping to raise his two-year-old son, Marvin Jr. and keeping his grades up.
"Marvin's a very responsible guy and remembers when he was younger at that age," Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. "He's really been a great influence because if you want anyone to lead somebody, it is Marvin because of everything he stands for."
Jones and Allen first met during Allen's official recruiting visit to campus and they soon realized that they shared another passion besides football. The two share a love of music and singing that Tedford was quick to point out.
"When Coach Tedford took us to his house, he had a piano and a microphone," Jones said. "He said `We are going to sing tonight', and came up to me to me and told me that `Keenan can sing'."
The two hit it off from that point and spend much of their free time together. During summer camp last year, they uploaded a duet to YouTube that they had written and sung together.
"Marvin is a good singer and Keenan is talented on the piano," Tedford said. "I thought it was a good match."
The great musical match that Tedford saw from a football field away has turned out better than he imagined as the two have continued to work on more songs that they plan to release in the future.
In addition to Tedford's musical matchmaking, a great deal of credit for the good relations between the two belongs to Jones' eager willingness to be a leader and guide for Allen. While Jones did not have a role model to look for guidance from in the past, that did not deter him from setting the best example he could for Allen now.
Three years ago, Jones had just joined the Bears as a freshman and the competition for playing time was wide open. Since Cal greats DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins had gone early in the 2008 NFL Draft, there were big holes left to fill.
"We all kept our distance because it was a competition, and I was coming in and knew I was competing for the number one spot," Jones said. "I never had that guy to take me under his arm and say this is what you do and stuff." Jones had to learn on the fly without an older, established receiver to guide him and help him adjust in his first year. Despite not having an example to follow, Jones never shied away from being a leader on the team and helping Allen.
Marvin the Mentor
When Allen arrived on campus with a lot of hype about playing as a true freshman, Jones never felt threatened and immediately took him under his wing. Clearly established as the No. 1 receiver for the Bears, Jones saw the potential of the offense with Allen lining up opposite him.
"I knew he could play and be on the other side of me," Jones said. "I'm not a selfish guy, so whatever I know I want him to know because that is just going to make us better as a unit on offense."
Allen predominantly played safety and running back in high school, and there has been an adjustment process in playing a brand new position at wide receiver. Jones' friendship and guidance helped make that learning curve easier.
"He tells me what to look for or how to set up a corner with a particular route," Allen commented on Jones' word of wisdom. "It's just things that he has had success with before."
While Jones' shrewd football tips were instrumental in helping Allen quickly make an impact on the field and contribute to the Bears as a true freshman, the precedent he sets off the field may be even more important.
"Marvin shows great character in the classroom," Allen said. "He set an example on how to do work and helps me sometimes when I need it, so he's always been there for me."
Jones' commitment to school is clear for all to see as he is on track to graduate this December in less than four years with a degree in American studies. Cal hopes that the pair can provide an even bigger spark to the offense heading into the 2011 season and make music on the field.
"They are both very talented guys," Tedford said. "And we are counting on those guys to make some big plays."