RB Taiwan Jones poses for a picture with one of the young football players. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, RB Taiwan Jones visited the youth football players of the East Bay Warriors in Oakland, Calif. Jones spoke to the kids about the importance of school and respecting their coaches, parents, and teachers.
The East Bay Warriors Pop Warner Football program focuses on education. "Each person in our program is required to maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0," states the East Bay Warriors website. "Progress reports are also done on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. If a child is having problems in certain areas in school, we screen other football players/cheerleaders and put them in, what we call, a "buddy system" to help them with their work. By having such a 'buddy system,' this enables everyone to get involved and help one another."
Jones, who grew up in the Bay Area, wanted to make sure the young football players understand the opportunity they had playing with the Warriors. "[My message to the kids was] respecting others as well as the adults and having fun out there," said Jones. "Most important, their academics because not everybody is going to get the opportunity to play in the NFL, but as long as you've got the academics to carry you in whatever field you want to work in, that's going to help and go a long way."
Morel Dright, head coach of the Pee Wee team, Wolfpack, appreciated Jones spending time with the kids and emphasizing the message the Warriors focus on. "We had special guest Taiwan Jones and some Oakland Raiders personnel come in to [practice] today and liven it up for the kids, give them some inspiration and give them something to look forward to."
Jones had two messages Dright hopes the kids remember. "The real important thing I heard him say was to stay in school, go to school," said Dright. "And the second one was to take care of your body and your health, eat right."
Because it was a professional football player relaying the message, Dright thinks it resonated with the young players. "His presence right there inspired the kids and the message he sent, staying in school," said Dright. "This is a scholarship program. You have to have good grades here to play this sport. If you don't have good grades period, you cannot play this sport. We are a scholarship program and the kids understood that so I'm quite sure they took that seriously."
After speaking to the kids, Jones walked around to each team as they practiced, even participating in a quarterback drill. "[Participating in a drill with the young quarterback], I think it's going to do a lot," said Jones. "It's going to give him a lot of bragging rights and automatically when they said, 'could I participate with the quarterback,' I saw how big he was smiling. I could just tell he was really happy."
The second-year running back enjoys giving back to the community. "Just seeing some of these kids' faces, just to see me come and talk to them, you could tell they were real appreciative of it," said Jones. "It just humbled me to be back out here. I enjoyed myself."
Jones was glad he could see the East Bay Warriors youth football program in action. "There's a lot of violence out there and a lot of kids, they get caught up in it, so just to be able to give back and see programs giving back and giving them an opportunity to do something positive, I'm happy to be a part of that," said Jones.
The best part for Jones is making the kids smile. "When you go out there, you see how happy those kids are just for your presence," said Jones. "It makes me happy. Just seeing the kids smile and actually enjoy my presence, it's been fun for me."