From his sophomore season at McKinney North all the way up to Super Bowl LV, Ronald Jones II hasn’t slowed down.
The running back rewrote the record books during his days donning orange and navy blue as a Bulldog and led North to some of its brightest pastures on the gridiron. Fast-forward to Sunday, and Jones II has a chance to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their second-ever Super Bowl championship.
With Super Bowl LV set to kick off at 5:30 p.m. tonight from Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, Jones is the first football player from his high school alma mater to play on the NFL’s most hallowed stage. He’s the second from McKinney ISD, dating all the way back to 1966-67 when McKinney alum Tommy Crutcher played for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowls I and II.
“It definitely feels good having an accomplishment like that,” Jones said. “I’m definitely going to go out there and put the city on my back and bring it home, not only for Tampa but for my people back home in Texas as well.”
The Buccaneers’ leading rusher will have plenty of support back home.
“It’s surreal. I was able to watch him in college at USC and have tried to watch as many Buccaneer games as I could, but this is a whole different deal,” said Mike Fecci, North head football coach. “Seeing him play Sunday is going to be really neat. I’m really proud of him and him getting an opportunity like this. We’ll all have our eyes on that TV, for sure.”
Jones has emerged as a key contributor for the Buccaneers in just his third year with the franchise that drafted him in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft. With each year, the former Bulldog has improved his production.
This season, Jones set career-high rushing marks across the board behind 978 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry — the latter ranks sixth among NFL running backs this season — and eight total touchdowns.
It’s a familiar recall to Jones’ ascent at North — exiting the program as its all-time leading rusher with 4,935 yards (8.9 per carry) and 76 touchdowns on the ground.
Although Jones would develop into one of the top running backs in the state, it meant working through a trying sophomore season that saw football put on hold for a moment. Early into the 2012 season, Jones’ father passed away at age 46 following a battle with heart disease. Jones left North altogether, departing for Georgia.
Fecci said Jones was gone from McKinney for around three to four weeks before North got in touch with his family to gauge Ronald’s interest on rejoining the team.
“It was a pretty traumatic deal — a pretty sudden situation. His dad had heart disease and was on the list for a transplant but it ended up getting him before that could occur,” Fecci said. “Ronald wasn’t very old and it was a pretty traumatic thing for him. I never did ask him when he came back why he was gone so long — we just wanted to make sure he was OK and let him know that this was a safe place and that we cared about him. Football was secondary at that point.”
Fecci credited Melvin Crosby, the head coach for the Bulldogs’ track and field team, for helping Jones and his family over the years.
Upon rejoining North’s football team midway through the 2012 season, Jones’ breakout performance came in a Nov. 8 win against Denison. He scored three touchdowns, including on his first two carries, and churned out long run after long run to help the Bulldogs cruise to a 62-24 victory.
“That was the game where I knew he was a difference maker and a special guy,” Fecci said. “He was a whole different guy when he came back and the rest was history.”
Jones eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards in each of his junior and senior seasons, highlighted by 2,406 yards on the ground in 2013, and helped lead North on its deepest playoff run ever with a regional finals appearance in 2014.
“He has tremendous vision. He can see things that most backs can’t see,” Fecci said. “His first step and explosiveness was second to none. We always felt like if we could get him to that second level and past the defensive line, it would be a big gain and even go the distance because his top-end speed was off the charts.”
Fecci has seen several of those attributes on display during Jones’ time with the Buccaneers. Chief among Jones’ contributions this season was a 98-yard touchdown run on Nov. 15 against Carolina Panthers.
“Believe it or not, I knew right before the play,” Jones said. “They sent them in motion and a crease had opened up, so I was thinking there would be one man to beat — I didn’t know where he would be coming from, but I knew it would be a foot race.
“I used the projector to see where the defender was at and changed up my angle on him.”
As Jones continues to blossom as a Buccaneer, his impact on McKinney still lingers. Before playing so much as a snap in the NFL, Jones hosted a youth football camp in July 2018.
“My mom always told me to never forget where you came from and where you started at, and this is where I made my name at, so it’s only right to give back to the city of McKinney,” Jones said to the McKinney Courier-Gazette in July 2018.
He’ll be representing that community when he takes the field tonight as he and the Buccaneers eye NFL supremacy.
“It’d mean a lifelong journey coming true,” Jones said. “In this business, that’s the highest point you can reach, so to bring it back home would mean everything for this team and my teammates who have been here for the long haul.”