By Rubin E. Grant
David Jones figured his coaching career had ended when he retired in 2011 after more than 40 years in the business.
But then his granddaughter Autumn Carpenter entered high school at Homewood, and Jones once again found himself in the Patriots’ football film room and on the sidelines.
Jones initially retired to spend more time with his family, especially Autumn, who at the time was his only grandchild. He had lived in the Hollywood community of Homewood for many years and walked Autumn to school when she attended Shades Cahaba Elementary.
He continued to take Autumn to school when she started attending Homewood Middle School and when she moved up to the high school.
When Ben Berguson took over as the Patriots’ head football coach in 2014, he asked Jones if he would return as an assistant, coaching running backs. Jones agreed.
“I was coming up here to the high school twice a day anyway to take my granddaughter to school and to pick her up,” Jones said. “That made it convenient for me to be here, or I should say it wasn’t inconvenient.
“Besides, coaching running backs is easy because they already know how to run. But you might have to teach them how to block,” he added with a laugh.
Autumn, a swimmer, is a junior now and driving herself to school, but Jones is still around, although he’s no longer the Patriots’ running back coach. He’s back in his familiar role as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“When Jamie Williams, who was the offensive coordinator, took the job as head coach at Gulf Shores two years ago, Berg (Berguson) asked me to move to offensive coordinator, so I did,” Jones said.
Except for his three-year hiatus, Jones has coached in some capacity at Homewood since its first season in 1972. He had a hand in each of the Patriots’ six state football championships.
This season the Patriots are off to a 5-0 start and ranked No. 7 in Class 6A, heading into their Region 5 contest at John Carroll Catholic on Friday.
“When I retired, I didn’t think I’d ever get involved in coaching again,” said Jones, who turned 69 on Sept. 24. “I still enjoy coaching. I’ve been in it a long time.”
The Information Age
During his time, Jones has witnessed several changes in the game. But the biggest, he said, is the amount of information readily available about teams.
“The main thing that’s true in all sports and is true in football is there’s so much knowledge about teams and you can get it twice as fast. So no matter what you’re doing, there are no secrets,” Jones said.
“When I started you had 16mm film and there was no such thing as an end zone shot. Now you get end zone shots and all the sideline angles, and it’s so easy to exchange film. You don’t have to go meet somebody to get their film. All you have to do is push a button on your computer and you’ve got it. So, it’s hard to stay one step ahead of your opponents.”
The Patriots are averaging 24 points per game, utilizing a spread offense that Jones installed 17 years ago. That offensive attack is now prevalent throughout high school football.
“In 2000, we started using zone read stuff and the no huddle, and nobody else was doing it except Hoover,” Jones said. “Now, everybody’s doing it. But no matter what offense you use, it still comes down to blocking and tackling.”
Another change, Jones said, is the expectation to win a championship every season. The Patriots haven’t won a state football title since 2005.
“The problem isn’t the pressure to win,” he said. “Everybody wants to win, but now you’re expected to win championships. And if you’re winning and not winning the right way, they want to get another coach. So, it’s the level you’re winning at.”
Despite the changes, Jones stills enjoys working with players and still goes by the philosophy he learned reading a book by legendary UCL A coach John Wooden, “They Call Me Coach.”
“Coach Wooden said that you should never ask kids to do things they can’t do,” Jones said. “You have to focus on what they can do.
“Kids today aren’t any different than when I first started. There are just many more distractions, but that’s true all across society. What has changed is kids are so much more concerned about their individual accomplishments than the team, but that’s a reflection of real life, too. They are so much more focused on how they’re doing instead of sacrificing for the team.”
Jones doesn’t know how much longer he will coach. He joked he will continue as long his wife, Mickey, will put up with it. They have been married 40 years and have three daughters and three grandchildren.
“I’m not making any predictions,” Jones said with a smile. “I’m here this afternoon.” ❖