By Rubin E. Grant
When Hoover was having virtual classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-21 school year, Terrell Jones didn’t just spend time in front of a computer screen.
He also ate and ate, and ate some more, adding some much-needed weight to his 6-foot-5 frame.
“I ate mainly carbs, meat and potatoes, greens, whatever so I could get filled out,” Jones said.
Jones, a defensive lineman, had been trying to transform his body since he joined Hoover’s varsity football team as a sophomore. At the time, he weighed a little more than 200 pounds.
“I was skinnier than the other linemen, but I was also faster,” Jones explained.
Now a more muscular senior, Jones tips the scales between 250 and 255 pounds, but he hasn’t lost any of his speed, as he showed last Friday, scooping up a fumble and racing 52 yards for the Bucs’ first touchdown in a 34-10 victory against Hewitt-Trussville in a Class 7A, Region 3 game at the Hoover Met.
The Huskies were marching down the field after the opening kickoff, but a high snap to Hewitt quarterback Cade Ott Carruth and a hit by blitzing Bucs linebacker D.J. Estes resulted in a fumble. Jones took it from there.
“After the ball hit the ground, I picked it up and tried to get to end zone as quickly as possible,” Jones said.
The touchdown was the first of Jones’ high school career.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about,” he said. “I hope to get another one (this) week.”
Hoover coach Josh Niblett has enjoyed seeing Jones transform from a skinny kid into a force on the Bucs’ defensive front.
“He’s a kid who I have watched grow up and mature and figure life out,” Niblett said. “He’s worked hard on the field, in the weight room and off the field to get where he needs to be, not only physically but mentally. It’s been neat to watch.”
Jones has transformed himself into a highly recruited player. He already has received 17 offers from colleges, including Illinois, Minnesota and UAB.
“I’m going to think through all my options,” Jones said. “This is all still mind-blowing to me.”
This season, Jones moved from defensive tackle to defensive end in the defensive scheme brought in by new defensive coordinator Chad Merrill, who had been at Vestavia Hills. Jones already has nine sacks after having only three during the 2020 season.
“His style is more attacking and playing fast,” Jones said, “but not too fast because you still have to stop the run.”
Hoover (7-0, 4-0 in Region 3) has played solid defense throughout the season, allowing only 13 points per game.
“It’s not just been one person, it’s been the whole defense, the secondary, the linebackers and defensive line alike,” Jones said.
Jones has played a key role, leading the team in sacks.
“He’s so long at 6-5 and he covers a lot of ground,” Niblett said. “He can rush the passer and play the run. He has been very productive.”
Jones didn’t play in Hoover’s 35-16 win at Prattville two weeks ago because of a broken toe. Initially, he didn’t know it was broken.
“Somebody stepped on my foot earlier in the season and it had been sore for almost three weeks,” he said. “After the Oak Mountain game, having to change directions while chasing their quarterback (Evan Smith), I finally went to our athletic trainer and had an X-ray taken. He showed me a fracture, but it had already started to heal on its own so all I needed to miss was one week.”
A healthy Jones will try to cause more havoc when Hoover visits crosstown rival Spain Park Friday in another region game.
“Every game is a big game for us,” Jones said. “Coach likes us to go into every game ready to play and come out with a win.”