From High School Football to College Campus, Hometown Players Impact the Field
By Becca George | Photography by Loveless Photography, Brent Beerends, and Donald Page
Football is as much a southern staple as sweet tea. When the air is crisp, the time is right for Friday Night Lights and weekends filled with favorite teams. There is an excitement that football brings to not only the players but the fans. Murfreesboro is home to many talented players, Jack Jones and Brent Stockstill being two of them. Jack and Brent both grew up in Murfreesboro playing youth sports and have gone on to play collegiate football, making their hometown proud.
Jack Jones, offensive lineman at the University of Tennessee and son of John and Tracy Jones, started his football career right here in Murfreesboro when his best friends from elementary school had signed up to play. “My parents were going to wait to sign me up but I came home devastated that I wasn’t playing so they signed me up,” explains Jack. John, Jack’s dad, quickly took over as Jack’s coach. “That was an awesome experience being able to learn from him,” says Jack, “that time we were able to spend together growing up was really cool.”
Jack attended Oakland High School and graduated in the class of 2015 with an early release. He took summer classes so he could move to Knoxville a semester early and get a head start. Prior to high school Jack played basketball and baseball in Murfreesboro. “I loved growing up in Murfreesboro,” he says. Jack attended Providence Christian Academy Kindergarten-8th grade. “They have a great program and it really prepared me,” explains Jack. Jack’s dad John was instrumental in starting the football team at Providence.
Ultimately, Jack and his family made the decision for him to attend Oakland High School because of the football opportunities it allowed. “I loved the coaches at Oakland, I loved the guys on the team, and I loved going to high school there,” says Jack. He also explained that Oakland allowed for a great high school football experience. “The Friday nights in high school with the guys you have grown up with playing football is one of the best experiences I have had,” says Jack, “Those guys aren’t necessarily the biggest or strongest but they play really hard and are able to come out there and compete. For those Friday nights in the fall you can come together and play as one.”
The decision to play football at UT was one that Jack and his family put a lot of thought and prayer into. It is also one that Jack had in his sights since he was a child. “I grew up a UT fan,” explains Jack, “When I started following the team I really fell in love with the school and I was able to meet Bruce Pearl (former UT basketball coach) as a kid.” Attending games with his father and grandfather helped to ignite Jack’s love for Tennessee football. When he started getting into the recruitment process, Jack had offers from MTSU, Georgia Tech and UT. Since he had grown up attending MTSU games he was excited about the offer from MTSU, but his dream was ultimately to play for UT.
Playing football is not all glory but involves rigorous training and a busy schedule with multiple practices or workouts a day at different times of the year. “You have those moments when you think to yourself, ‘why am I putting my body through this’,” Jack explains, “One thing for me and one of the reasons I have always played football is the relationships and friendships you make. There are always those times when you don’t want to go out and practice, but quickly you realize how awesome these memories are going to be.” Many of the friendships Jack has made on the field, both in high school and college, are friendships that he intends to keep.
“On those days when you are feeling down and out, you think about the atmosphere on a Saturday night or the Florida game and Georgia game last year and how awesome those memories are,” explains Jack. These memories and the atmosphere in Knoxville on a Saturday are what keep him going throughout the season. “There is nothing that really compared to the Vol walk,” laughs Jack, “There aren’t any places in the SEC that rival the fan base that Tennessee has. When it’s football season the buzz around here is like everyone has a pep in their step. It is pretty cool to play here for that reason.”
Jack has made it to where he is by working hard but also remembering to have fun. “I would say, especially for young kids, having fun is the biggest thing,” explains Jack, “Working hard is important, but one thing we forget to realize is, to go out there and have fun. That is one thing I have always tried to do, go out there and have fun and everything else will take care of itself.”
Brent Stockstill, Quarterback for MTSU and son of Sara and Rick Stockstill, is no stranger to football. Growing up with a father who is a head football coach kept him around the game, and the excitement, his entire life. Brent and his family moved to Murfreesboro when he was in fifth grade. “I love the game so much,” explains Brent, “I think it is a big teacher of life. Growing up as a coach’s kid and playing football myself the takeaways I got from it, aside from the fun that I had, is that it taught me so much about life and teamwork like having great character and how to be humble.”
Brent didn’t just stick to football growing up but played all the sports that he could including football, baseball and basketball. Once he reached high school he focused more on football and baseball. “I think growing up in your childhood you should play everything you can and not focus on one sport,” explains Brent. He explains that each game teaches something different.
Brent attended Siegel Middle and High School and graduated in 2013. “Everyone always says there is nothing like high school football and the Friday night lights, and I completely agree,” says Brent, “You get the whole community to come out and come together to support you.” In Brent’s senior year Siegel had one of the best year’s in the school’s history. “It was really like a dream, we went undefeated, we were 13-0 and made it to the semi-finals.” Brent formed lasting relationships with his coaches, his class and the younger players on the team that he still keeps up today. “Everything we were able to accomplish and the relationships we formed were awesome,” says Brent, “There really isn’t anything like high school football.”
When it came to a decision on where to attend college Middle Tennessee was never an option for Brent. He and his family thought it would be better if he went his own path. He committed to Cincinnati prior to graduating but after his last baseball game at Siegel he and his dad realized they both had other plans. “We never really said it all along but we both wanted the same thing and that was for me to play for him and for him to coach me,” says Brent, “We kept it bottled up and one night it all came out and we had one of those long talks. We went from there and it is the best decision I have ever made. He is one of the best coaches I have been around and the best person I have ever know and it is an honor to play for him. I think this is the opportunity of a lifetime I am living out right now.”
Brent has a unique experience growing up so closely to MTSU football. “It has been pretty special. It has been unique my dad being here as long as he has,” explains Brent, “I think it speaks more to the kind of person that he is and the way that he treats people on campus and around the community. He is really a special person and it has been fun for me to see him grow this program to where we are today. It has been fun to see the community buy in more and more each year.” Now that Brent is part of the team his is excited about his ability to contribute to that growth and excitement. “It gives me a double sense of joy that I can not only make my dad proud and help him with his career but I can also do something for the community,” says Brent “It has been a special time for me, I couldn’t ask for much more. I have seen this grow and now it is exciting to be a part of it myself.”
In addition to football, Brent played baseball at MTSU his freshman year but quickly realized that he needed to devote his time to one sport. He has worked through injuries that include a torn ACL and a broken collarbone but managed to stay positive and work to get back out on the field with his teammates. These teammates work hard to be a role model for our community and its youth. “As a college football player and a college football team it is our job to use our platform to impact others, especially like the younger generation, they really do look up to us. They don’t know any better, they think we are NFL players,” laughs Brent.