Forget all the stereotypes you've heard about Black ball players. In his quiet and humble way, New York Jets' Thomas Jones is redefining what it means to be a sports star as he takes care of his family and friends, finishes his Masters degree in education and builds a strong and monagmous relationship with actress girlfriend Megan Good.
ESSENCE.COM: Mr. Jones, you are more than meets the eye. What would people be surprised to know about you and what are some of the stereotypes you face as an athlete?
THOMAS JONES: Well, the three main stereotypes I hear about athletes that aren't true are we aren't intelligent, that we are greedy and that we don't give back. I am finishing my Masters in Education and have always worked just as hard in school, as on the field. I never hear anything about my scholarship, but if I say something in the moment it's everywhere. At the end of the day, everyone can't do this job, so it's easy to say we're greedy, but we put our lives on the line. It's like getting into a car accident every week when we're on the field. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being in the limelight, and we have to try extra hard to keep ourselves out of trouble. It's hard. Trouble tries to find you.
ESSENCE.COM: Definitely. You've kept yourself out of trouble. What do you credit your success to?
JONES: My family has been the foundation. If it wasn't for my dad, I wouldn't be where I am. He pushed me. I had to get A's and B's or I couldn't play ball; he made me do sit-ups, push-ups; I had to make my bed. I had to read the front page of the paper before I could read sports. It all played a big role in who I am. My parents are working on a book called "Blessings From the Dust." My mom worked in the Virgina coal mine for 20 years to support us. My parents raised seven kids and they are an example of what a lot of people would want to be. They've been married for 35 years, and all their kids went to school. My brother and I are both in the NFL. It's amazing. When he does well, I'm more happy than when I do.
ESSENCE.COM: With such a busy schedule, how do you make your relationship with Megan [Good] work?
JONES: I look at it as something I want to do, and we take it one day at a time. I don't look at it like it's work. The reality is I work in New York and she works in L.A., but we are fortunate we have jobs where it's flexible. I'm in New York for five months of the year and the other time I am wherever she is. To me, it's what you make it. I've never seen myself as a celebrity, which is probably because I'm from a small town. I'm just blessed I get to do something I love to do. She's the same way, and really humble. We may be at the mall or the movies, and people will say what are y'all doing here. We're doing the same thing everyone else does.
ESSENCE.COM: And being in a relationship, how is it dealing with groupies who have their eyes set on a snagging an athlete?
JONES: It's tough. A lot of things men do is for women, from wanting nice bodies to jewelry. So when you are in a situation where plenty of women are around you, it's tempting. But if guys look at the big picture as a whole, it would be easier to make decisions. I've been blessed to make it through a lot of situations. Anything I'm doing, if [Megan's] not there, she knows. Period.
JONES: Don't expect something you aren't working towards. Don't look for a man to respect you when you don't respect yourself. Everything you do eventually will come back, though it might not happen when you expect. You have to work on you. People say they want a good guy or have been praying, and a lot of time God gives you that time to work on yourself. That way when you do find him, you're ready. A lot of times, somebody will come across your path, and you're not ready for that, or you're looking for something else, and it's right in front of you