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Jones returns to El Paso after strong NFL start

Gaby Velasquez
UTEP alumnus and current running back for the Green Bay Packers Aaron Jones visiting his hometown during a UTEP football game.

With only one week off from a busy 17-week NFL season, Aaron Jones decided to spend it in El Paso, the city that saw him grow as a player.

The former Burges Mustang and all-time leading rusher in UTEP football history, was picked in the 2017 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round as the 182nd overall pick.

Jones’ first stop back in the Sun City was at Andress High School to support Burges in a battle of two undefeated district 1-5A teams. The last time his Mustangs beat the Eagles was when Jones was still in high school.

Along with leading the Burges team out onto the field and giving them a pep talk before the game, Jones was bombarded by fans from his first step onto the field to his last.

“You see all these little kids and they look up to me. All I can say is ‘wow,’” Jones said in awe of the support he receives from El Paso. “I was once in their shoes. It’s a crazy feeling.”

And for the first time ever, Jones has been away from his family and his twin brother Alvin, who is still at UTEP playing linebacker. What Jones missed most came as no surprise.

“I miss my family, number one, my brother, and I just miss the people here in El Paso. I also miss the food. The first thing I ate when I got back was tacos,” Jones said. “It was a little tough at first being away from him (Alvin) and adjusting at first, but we’re on the phone all the time together. He was over there (Wisconsin) last weekend and I’m here now. We just have to make the most of it together.”

This season has been the Miners’ first season without Jones and the team is 0-8 overall with no answers on offense. Although Jones is aware his former teammates won’t be heading to a bowl game this season, he knows that there is still a lot to play for and hopes they never give up despite how the season looks.

In anticipation of Jones’ return to the Sun Bowl to cheer on Alvin and the rest of the Miners, 1,000 fans were given a free Aaron Jones bobblehead.

Jones thrived on the playing gridiron in college, and he’s on the right track in his short NFL career to do the same on that level.

It’s week eight of the NFL season and no one outside of El Paso expected Jones to accomplish what he’s already have. Two NFL Rookie of the Week honors, one Ground Player of the Week beating out the likes of Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell and Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott with 346 total rushing yards and three touchdowns.

“It’s amazing. It all starts with the fans; without their votes, I wouldn’t be here,” Jones said. “I give all the thanks to them.”

When the Packers first suited up against the Seahawks to begin the 2017-18 NFL season, Jones was overlooked and didn’t suit up as one of the 53-man roster.

Instead, Jones had to watch and patiently wait for his turn to show what he has in store.

Come week four on a Thursday night battle between the Packers and the Bears—one of the NFL’s greatest rivalries—Jones began the night as the third-string running back behind Ty Montgomery and Jaamal Williams. But later in the game, both Montgomery and Williams were forced to come out due to game-ending injuries—the only running back left on the roster was Jones.

And that’s all Jones needed—a chance.

“My teammates already knew I could play. They saw me in practice before,” Jones said. “All my teammates are just proud of me and always tell me how happy they are for me.”

The following week, Jones received his first career start for the Packers against none other than his favorite team growing up—the Dallas Cowboys. Since his 125 yards and one touchdown performance against the Cowboys, there was no denying that Jones belonged in the NFL.

Jones got his chance and was not going to give it back.

“I knew when I got the chance to make the most out of it and don’t give the job back, really,” Jones said. “I want to be on the field and I know you have to produce to be on the field. I want to do some of the things I did at UTEP—be a big play production player.”

According to Jones, his biggest learning curve from the college level to the professional level was the playbooks. In college, there was one playbook to learn, but in the NFL there’s a different playbook every week, with different plays and strategies based on which team they have coming up next.

After the bye week, Jones and the Packers will be back at it in a crowded NFC North race. Green Bay’s next game will be at Lambeau Field against their division rivals the Lions. But before Jones goes back to work, he had one message for the people in El Paso.

“Thank you for the support, El Paso. I love you guys,” Jones said.

Follow Mike Flores on Twitter @MikeyTheReal.

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Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Jones returns to El Paso after strong NFL start