The first season of Jonathan Jones' professional career proved to be a whirlwind that culminated in one of the most unforgettable Super Bowl finishes in the history of the NFL.
And if winning a Super Bowl as a rookie cornerback with the New England Patriots was something Stacey and Sharon Jones thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for their son, Year 2 has them all right back on the sport's grandest stage.
Jonathan Jones and the Patriots are gearing up for Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to cap off another incredible gridiron campaign to further New England's dynasty run over the past two decades. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
"I guess it's the typical New England Patriots' way of working. The guys get out there and keep their head to the grind and they have one focus at the beginning of the year and they know where they want to be at the end of it," Stacey said. "He's just delighted to be a part of it."
After soaking up the experience last year at Super Bowl LI in Houston, Stacey and Sharon Jones are heading to Minnesota this week to share in their son's journey as the Patriots pursue a second consecutive Super Bowl championship and sixth overall of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, dating back to 2001.
Jonathan Jones enjoyed tremendous on-field growth during his second season in New England, suiting up in all 16 regular-season games with four starts. The 2012 Carrollton High School graduate and former All-SEC cornerback at Auburn recorded 44 tackles with 39 solo stops in 2017, highlighted by his first career sack and first career interception.
Along with his signature special teams play showcasing his blazing speed and athleticism, the former Trojan star earned the respect of the defensive coaching staff to where he was a fixture on that side of the ball, as well, playing on nearly 50 percent of the defensive snaps this season for the Patriots.
The only sour note to the Super Bowl return for the Jones family is knowing that their son won't be able to play in the big game this year after going down with an ankle injury during the victory over Tennessee in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs on Jan. 13. Jonathan was placed on injured reserve (IR) on Jan. 17, cutting his season two games short of the ultimate destination.
Sharon said it's been difficult to see her son have to deal with not only the injury, but the mental pain of not being able to play in the AFC Championship or Super Bowl. But it still doesn't take away from everything he accomplished this season and the way he's carrying himself as a teammate.
"It was tough because I know he worked real hard this year. He was having a great season. It was disappointing to him, but he understands things happen and there's going to be adversity and trials," Sharon said. "You've got to just hang in there and like Jonathan will tell you, football is a team sport. You've still got to be there and support the other guys and encourage them. Of course, he wants to be on the field, but right now he can't so he's continuing to support his teammates."
Stacey, too, is proud of how his son conducted himself on the field through 17 games this season, as well as his maturity in dealing with the injury.
"It's been a unique situation watching him develop at that level. Coming from college and then being a first-year player, you can see the progress. I'm just proud of him for the progression that he's made," Stacey said.
Stacey and Sharon were able to travel to a handful of games this year in Foxborough and they said it's hard not to marvel at how the Patriots go about their daily business during the season.
"He really loves the Patriots' way of doing things. It really fits into his mold. He believes that you get what you earn, and that's kind of the way the Patriots handle things in their organization," Stacey said. "Just looking back from last year to this year with him being in it and just seeing some things up close and personal, you know that they're a class act organization."
Whether up close and personal or back in Carrollton watching from afar, the pride that the Jones family takes in watching Jonathan live out his dream is something that still seems a bit surreal.
"I think everybody that knows him and is pretty close to him, they're just elated," Stacey said. "Jonathan has always been the type of kid that if he tells you he's going to do something, he's going to work to accomplish it. I'm sure there were a lot of doubters along the way, but he always rises to the occasion and proves all the doubters wrong."
Next season marks the third year in Jonathan's three-year contract he signed in May of 2016 and while there is always pressure to perform during a contract year, Stacey doesn't believe it will become a distraction.
"His mentality is to go out and play to the best of his ability each time he touches the field," Stacey said. "His preparation for that gives him that opportunity and that edge. We're looking to see just how far this journey takes him. He knows that it's totally up to him. We just sit back and watch."
And sit back and watch is just what Sharon and Stacey look forward to doing on Sunday — enjoying a front-row view to a dream that their son has turned into his destiny.
"One of my favorite memories of him when he was little was on Sundays he was always watching the football games and I remember him telling us, 'One day, I'm going to be on TV playing,'" Sharon said. "To look at him now when I do see him on television, I get tears in my eyes. He set a goal and he's worked hard to accomplish it. We're just proud of him. He didn't let nothing stop him."
Jonathan Jones was not available for comment due to the Patriots' policy of not permitting media interviews for players on injured reserve during the week of the Super Bowl.