California Diné fulfilling childhood dream


From an early age, almost all the signs were there that James “JJ” Jones III was meant to play football.

Navajo Times | Submitted
James “JJ” Jones III is currently being recruited by at least 31 colleges and universities. Jones, who has roots from the Chinle-area, has verbally committed to Dartmouth College but he is still waiting to weight out his options. First day of signing is Feb. 1.

When he was about five or six year-old he remembers rolling out of bed and walking into the crisp fall air for early morning league games of football. He had size and speed, and loved football.

His father, James R. Jones, Jr., remembers a time his son gave T-ball a try but ended up tackling the centerfielder on the team after the player dropped the ball during a play in practice.

James R. Jones, Jr., said it was then that he knew his son was meant to be on the football field.

“He ran from short stop to centerfielder to tackle this teammate. I just knew it was in his blood,” his dad said. “He’s been around football his whole life; I think it was probably early on he was just a natural at it. It’s just always been there; he’s always been an athlete.”

Flash forward about 13 years and “JJ” as he prefers to be called, is about to live out his father’s prophecy, but more importantly, his dream to play college football.

JJ, a senior, who stands 6-feet-4 at 225 pounds, was a tight end, defensive end and long snapper for the Merrill F. West High School in Tracy, California, and is being recruited by at least 31 colleges and universities. He has verbally committed to Dartmouth College but is still waiting to weigh out all of his options.

JJ and his father are somewhat surprised by the interest considering his high school football team went 0-10 overall this past season, having never won a game.
JJ said the offers were testimony to the work he’s put in off and on the field.

“It’s actually kind of surprising especially because of how the season went as a team, but it’s really nice to be discovered for what I’m able to do both athletically and academically,” JJ said. “Being able to play football at the next level, not only will I be able to get an education from a prestigious school but football is not just as game, you learn so many life lessons from it.”

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Categories: Football

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at or via cell at (505) 686-0769.