Jarnor Jones’ unexpected journey takes him to Iowa State


Redshirt junior defensive back Jarnor Jones talks to defensive coordinator Wally Burnham during a drill on the first day of spring practice.

Luke Manderfeld

Jarnor Jones hasn’t had the easiest track to Iowa State.

His path is full of unexpected detours that took him to military school and eventually a landed him on the ISU football roster as a linebacker.

A three-star recruit by Rivals.com and ESPN and the 28th-best safety out of high school at Martin Luther King High School in Lithonia, Ga., Jones picked North Carolina State over schools like West Virginia and Kentucky.

Jones redshirted his initial season with the Wolfpack and finished his career at NC State with three games played, mostly on special teams.

But it was at NC State that Jones, now a redshirt junior, realized that he needed a change. Most of his mistakes were small, like leaving his house late to get to practices. Looking back on his time at NC State, Jones wasn’t happy with how he carried himself.

“At NC State, I was kind of off-track,” Jones said. “But time management was my biggest issue. Leaving the house to get to a 3 [p.m.] meeting and leaving at 2:45 [p.m.], 2:50 [p.m.] You know, just pushing it to the limit, and I put myself in a predicament to go to a junior college and that was the reason why— not being disciplined.”

The predicament that pulled the rug out from under Jones was a drug possession charge, which came to light while police were searching an apartment as part of a sexual battery investigation involving one his teammates.

Jones wasn’t officially suspended from his team because he informed the coaching staff that he would transfer before the suspensions were handed down.

Jones took it upon himself to garner more discipline that could potentially land him at another Division I college and transferred to Georgia Military College.

The school afforded him something he knew he needed.

“Discipline first and foremost,” Jones said, making a reference to how military school improved him. “Be a better student athlete, football player and (at) time management. Just things that you need to be a better person more so than anything, and military school really helped me out with that.”

The rigor and training of the school put him back on-track while playing a season for the football team. He recorded 40 tackles and five tackles for a loss with two sacks in 10 games on the field.

Like the previous two years of his life, Jones’ journey to Iowa State was an unconventional one.

In January, which is late in the recruiting process, Jones took a trip to Ames the same weekend the ISU basketball team played Kansas at Hilton Coliseum.

Jones didn’t experience the Cyclones’ victory, but he did end up signing on the Friday of his trip, Jan. 16, which lasted from Thursday to Saturday.

He returned home on Saturday but came back to Iowa State a day later to begin his college career as classes started the next day.

This time around, Jones plans on avoiding the familiar mistakes that plagued him at NC State.

“I believe my first go-around, I took it for granted,” Jones said. “Now, I appreciate it a lot more because I’ve had everything taken away from me. It can be here and be gone tomorrow. This experience right here, I’m definitely trying to take advantage of it.”

It’s only two weeks into fall camp, but coaches are already recognizing Jones’ impact on the field.

With military school under his belt, the discipline and skill is starting to come to fruition for the Cyclones.

“[Jones] is a fun player to watch,” said ISU head coach Paul Rhoads. “He’s benefiting from [military school]. Right now, we are the recipient of where it took him.”

Not only have the ISU coaches taken notice, his fellow teammates have seen Jones’ versatility and work ethic as a plus for the defense.

“I think [Jones] likes to hit,” said fellow linebacker and redshirt junior Jordan Harris. “He’s more of a cover guy. He’s more of a bigger guy on smaller receivers. When he’s asked, he’ll bring it.

“He will.”