At 10 years old Ben Jones’ life changed forever.
His father, Steve, who owned a forestry company, died in a helicopter crash along with the pilot in Bibb County, Alabama, a few miles from the family farm, on Oct. 5, 1999.
Steve was 37 and idolized by his sons, Ben and Clay.
“His thing was to treat everybody the way you wanted to be treated. He treated everyone fairly no matter who they were or had never met them before,” Ben said.
Now a center for the Tennessee Titans, Ben learned many lessons from his father, like work hard daily and try to be the best you can be. And he came away from the experience with spiritual lessons as well.
“It made me a believer at a young age. I have a strong Christian background. I have a strong family. I live by my faith every day,” said Ben, who grew up in First Baptist Church, Centreville, where his dad served as a deacon.
Ben said his mother, Vickie, introduced him to Jesus and many along the way, including his wife, Alex, friends, family members and chaplains, have been important to his faith journey.
Drafted No. 99 overall by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2012 draft after playing at the University of Georgia, his dad’s alma mater. Ben rededicated his life to Christ in 2015 and was baptized at an NFL Christian retreat four years ago.
He joined the Titans in 2016 and is now in his eighth pro season. Teammates see how important his faith is to him.
“I know he loves Jesus. You can see that in the way he carries himself. You couldn’t ask for a better teammate,” said Titans punter Brett Kern.
Titans long snapper Beau Brinkley calls Ben a “huge believer.”
“We always see him in chapel up front, always giving his opinion. We are all together in this growing path, growing in faith. To have him, Ryan (Succop, Titans placekicker) and countless others who all come to chapel over the years and with the group getting bigger, we’re thankful the good Lord is in our locker room and here to stay.”
Ben was a star baseball player in high school. He was first baseman and pitcher for Bibb County High School with a school-record 48 RBI in 2007 and a career batting average of .345. The Tuscaloosa News selected him a West Alabama baseball all-star and the Mobile Press Register named him to its baseball elite 18 team.
But Ben loved football and ended his high school career ranked in ESPN’s list of top 150 players. Rivals.com ranked him the No. 7 offensive center nationwide in 2008. At Georgia, Ben wore No. 60 in honor of his father who wore that number while playing high school football. He earned All-SEC honors, ESPN All-American, the Vince Dooley Most Valuable Player of the Year Award and was named to the Bulldogs’ Team of the Decade.
Ben is a leader on and off the field, Brinkley said.
“Ben is a natural born leader,” he said. “Obviously at center you have to know everything. He does a great job on that (offensive line).”
And faith helps him persevere, Ben said.
“Stand strong. That is what faith is all about,” said Jones. “When you have God, you stick to it through the hard times. He is always there.”