A Georgia Baptist Institution
Relationships are what drive Shorter University’s Coach Jones. Whether it be a soggy night in 1968 watching the love of his life weathering the storm from the stands, or on Sept. 12, 2013 as he faces the home opener of the 45th season of his coaching career and the ninth season as head coach of the Shorter Hawks, the common theme throughout Coach Jones’ life is that people matter.
“He believes in relationships,” Shorter University Athletic Director Bill Peterson said. “His first and most important relationship is with Jesus Christ his Savior, and that’s a model for all of his other relationships.”
Growing up in Thomaston, Ga., Phil Jones played football and baseball in high school. It was out of his great love for football and his respect for his own coach, Jim Cavan, that he decided to make a career of the sport.
“I loved the game so much that I wanted to give myself to those kids, and it meant so much to me when I played,” he said. “Coach Cavan was my Sunday school teacher, also. He had such an impact on my life that I was just excited about being able to follow up because it was really what I wanted to do.”
For 29 years Coach Jones spent Friday evenings each fall on the sidelines of high schools in Georgia, leading his teams to victory and consoling them in defeat. There were good seasons and there were bad, but he stuck with it with the love and support of his wife and their two children, Philly and Connie. He eventually tacked on the duties of athletic director to his coaching responsibility.
In 1997 Coach Jones made the leap into the world of college football, joining the University of Georgia’s football staff where he served under Head Coach Jim Donnan as defensive end coach, special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach over the course of five years. The change was a welcome one.
“It was a breath of fresh air,” Coach Jones said. “I could actually invest myself in the game more without having to worry about all the things an athletic director worries about.”
More than 30 years into coaching football at this point, Coach Jones said he knew he was on the right path, though there were a few fleeting moments in which he considered joining the ministry.
“I gave a little thought to preaching, but I don’t consider myself to be able to be an outstanding preacher,” he said. “I would sometimes wonder if I missed a calling to do so, but I felt the things in coaching — the relationships with the kids — to be kind of like their own ministries.”
His players would agree.
Ryan Gloer transferred into Shorter in 2005 and played middle linebacker for the Hawks inaugural team. Coming into the football program, he was not a Christian.
“Coach is the real deal. He genuinely lives out what he preaches and coaches on and off the field. He is a man of authenticity and integrity who is a lot of fun to be around,” Gloer said.
Bradley Moon, a senior fullback out of Conyers, Ga., said Coach Jones’ passion for the game and his commitment to his players and staff is a great motivator for the team as a whole.
“It is amazing feeling to be one of Coach Jones’ players,” Moon said. “He has so much coaching experience. He knows everything about the game of football. What I love about his coaching style is that he teaches us to work hard daily and always love the people around us. I am so thankful for having a man of God leading Shorter's football team.”
Now in his ninth season at Shorter University, Jones said he is grateful to have had the opportunity to build a football program from the ground up. But it wasn’t an easy construction process in the beginning.
After being informed by the NAIA that Shorter’s inaugural season would be spent playing a varsity schedule, Coach Jones was concerned. Most new schools practice for a year and then play, so this was a new challenge, but it was a challenge he had signed up for.
For four or five days the coach of the team that had yet to be formed sat on his tan and navy plaid couch in his office at Shorter praying that God would help him build the program on a solid foundation.
“We didn’t even have a coaching staff at that time.” Coach Jones said. “We had 125 freshman players coming from all over the place. They couldn’t even come until August to practice. We were going to play other varsity teams that had already been playing. I didn’t have any idea what to do.
“I wondered if it would it be so bad that Shorter would decide to just disintegrate the team. But I prayed about it,” he continued. “I knew what I was asking for was a really strong foundation. The Lord said to me that the foundation needs to be relationships, and the relationship with His Son is the No. 1 relationship, and He wanted me to share that. I knew at that point that relationship was not going to be defeated by a scoreboard.”
And so Shorter Football was born. Starting from scratch, Coach Jones recruited freshman players and his coaches, built up his team and got through that first bumpy season. What has followed is what Coach Peterson said has been a phenomenal time in the history of the university.
“He has been a special coach for Shorter,” Coach Peterson said. “The university could not have made a better hire, just in terms of the way he has changed kids’ lives and the success that we’ve had on the field and how he’s embraced everything that Shorter stands for.”
Being a player under Coach Jones is a unique experience. He lets every potential athlete and his parents know the moment they walk through his door what his coaching style is all about.
“Every time a kid comes in with their parents, we tell them our program is based on relationships,” he said. “The first relationship is our relationship with the Lord, and then it’s football.”
That formula has made his players want to strive to be better players on the football field, but also better people.
“He is a man that you want to play hard for,” former player Gloer said. “Because of the way you know he loved and cared about you, you wanted to give it everything you’ve got.”
In 45 years, a lot has changed in the world. The onslaught of technology including cell phones and the Internet has affected athletes’ concentration. But Coach Jones works through it the best he can.
“Their minds are now like filters. All of this stuff gets them off-base, but my job is to get them back in the direction they need to be focused on,” he said.
With the changes, some things remain constant. Each time Coach Jones steps onto the sideline he feels the same rush of excitement and love for the game that he did back in 1968, and he has no plans of letting that go any time soon.
“It feels the same every single time I’m out on the field,” Coach Jones said. “I guess that’s one way of measuring whether you feel like you are doing what you are really called to do.”
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christian university committed to excellence in education. The Princeton Review annually includes Shorter on its list of best value and best Southeastern Colleges. Shorter University is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Shorter offers traditional bachelor’s degree program in 48 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, and four master’s programs. Shorter is online at www.shorter.edu.
| SHORTER UNIVERSITY • 315 Shorter Avenue • Rome, Georgia 30165 • Phone: 800-868-6980 • www.shorter.edu
For website problems or questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org