For 11 years, Phil Jones planted his feet firmly on “The Hill” and made it his mission to provide Shorter University with the best football program he could.
His loyalty and leadership were honored Saturday afternoon with a dedication to his legacy as the school’s first head football coach with his induction into the Shorter Athletic Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Barron Stadium before the Hawks’ game against Delta State.
Jones and his wife, Janie Jones, joined Shorter President Don Dowless along with several former players and assistant coaches on the field for the presentation, and the coach, who retired following the 2015 season, was an honorary captain during the coin toss.
“It’s just really incredible to see everyone, and I want to continue to support this program as they strive to get better,” Jones said. “I love this place, and I love these kids. I’ve spent a lot of time with them and I just think this could be a really, really good place for football.”
A native of Thomaston, Jones arrived at Shorter in 2004 to begin building the new program. From 2005-2015, he led the team to a 56-63 overall mark and finished above .500 in six of his 11 seasons.
The Hawks won the Mid-South Conference Western Division title in 2008 and made their first, and only, appearance in the NAIA playoffs that same season. Jones was named the American Football Coaches Association’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division I Coach of the Year that same year.
His 47-year coaching career behind him, Jones points out he relies on his wife more these days. Still he greeted many of the current players before the game with his traditional battle cry of “Let’s go get ‘em.”
“That’s what Phil misses so much is the players,” Janie Jones said. “He wishes he could still coach. He misses that so much. But it’s always good to come here and see these young men and see them playing so hard and trying so hard, knowing that they have coaches who love them. And we’re thankful for that.”