By MYLO ERICKSON
Sitting in a sub shop, 6-foot 6-inch Sam Jones wears a black Pittsburgh Steelers cap and a gray North Carolina State hoodie with red lettering.
Jones, a sophomore offensive lineman for the Pima Community College football team, has enjoyed both his playing time and hanging around with teammates.
He respects fellow Aztec players like A.J. Willis and Josh Kimbell, who are in similar situations and are also trying to be good fathers to their children.
He describes a unique bond with freshman tight end Cory Myers.
“We have the biggest love-hate relationship,” Jones said. “We’ll be joking one second and the next second I want to punch him in the face, and vice versa.”
Joking aside, Jones faces a decision on whether to walk away from football or to concentrate on his roles as husband and father.
“I think Sam has a lot of decisions to make and it will be up to him, what he wants,” head coach Patrick Nugent said.
Jones tried to begin his college football career in 2006, when he committed to North Carolina State and coach Chuck Amato.
University officials fired Amato in 2006 after two losing seasons, and told Jones he could not enroll at NC State because he had not completed a required class. Jones says someone forgot to include an Algebra II course on his transcript.
Jones played for Hargrave Military Academy in 2007 while appealing the decision, and was allowed to enroll at NC State in 2009.
He met his future wife, Arlee, at NC State when he was hitting on one of her volleyball teammates. Arlee made a pass at Jones after he struck out with the teammate.
“She told me the ball was in my court,” Jones said. “So I called her and ever since then, you know.”
The two were married on Dec. 31, 2009.
Before his marriage, Jones lived with his father in North Carolina. His father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 19, but symptoms didn’t worsen until he was in his 40s.
His father provided a support system that ended when Jones told him Arlee was pregnant. He and his dad had a falling out, and his father later moved back to his home country of Panama. Jones hasn’t heard from him since.
After Arlee graduated from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, the couple decided to move to Tucson so they could raise their daughter around family.
In Tucson, they separated briefly to figure out exactly what they wanted from life. They chose to stay together, and will celebrate their daughter’s 2nd birthday in January.
Jones and his wife are now trying to decide their next step. That step won’t necessarily involve football for Jones, who has been playing the game since eighth grade..
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gives it up,” Nugent said.
Jones is leaning toward the military, so that he can support his family. He may return to school in the future.
“Stepping away from ball is really a big thing for me, but at the same time it’s just like I’ve got bigger responsibilities,” Jones said.
He may join the Army military police. Eventually, he might become a firefighter.
Enlisting in the Army would give his family a chance to be on their own, which Jones thinks they need.
Jones hopes to continue with some type of sport after military service, perhaps mixed martial arts fighting. He got a small taste of MMA when he was invited to spar with a local Strikeforce fighter, Chad Griggs.
“That was the first time I legitimately got my bell rung,” Jones said.
The most definite plan Jones has for his future is to do right by his wife and daughter.
“I just wanna be the best father I can be,” Jones said. “You have to treat the mom right in order to treat the daughter right.”