You’re likely to be hearing a lot from Clark Jones the next four years.
The football coaching staff at William Blount High School is already taking notice of the incoming freshman lineman.
Jones was one of 12 area middle school players who journeyed to Louisville, Ky., earlier this month to take part in the inaugural Tennessee/Kentucky middle school all-star game. While one of the biggest names on the middle school level locally the last two years, Jones was largely an unknown to the Governor staff prior to the game. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Jones is an unknown no longer.
“I don’t even think the (William Blount) coaches knew my name until I made that team,” he said.
The Tennessee and Kentucky teams were divided into seventh- and eighth-grade squads for the game. Jones, who played his middle school football at Carpenters, was one of seven area players to make the trip with the eighth-graders, along with Maryville Middle’s Jake Taylor, Cody Carroll, Shawn Prevo, Drew Curtis and Caden Ryding and Alcoa Middle’s Braylon Young.
The Tennessee eighth-grade all-stars bested the Kentucky counterparts, 17-7, thanks in part to a 24-yard touchdown catch from Carroll.
Maryville’s Dylan Shinsky, Paul Bristol, Brent Sloan and Bryce Miller and Alcoa’s Jacob Evans were part of a seventh-grade contingent that walloped their Blue Grass rivals, 33-13.
More than 300 players from across the state took part in the selection combine to name the team. To actually make the roster is something he’ll never forget, Jones said.
“I thought it was a great honor to get to go and tryout for it,” he said. “Three other guys went to the tryout, and I was the only guy to make it from my school.”
While far from the lone Bulldog to be selected, Taylor, an offensive lineman on the squad, said hearing his named called over the school’s intercom that he’d made the team was a tremendous lift.
“It was one of the best moments of my life,” Taylor said. “When they said they were getting ready to announce it, I got so nervous. When they said my name, I didn’t know what to feel.”
The game was unlike any he’d ever played in, Jones said.
“It didn’t feel like middle school,” he said, “especially with so many bigger guys. I think going up against 6-foot guys can only help (in high school).”
Taylor was of much the same mind.
“It was a lot more intense,” he said. “At the game, for everybody, football is what they do. It’s rare to find and have that many big guys on one line like that.”
The game was a blast, Taylor said. The spirited speech former Tennessee Vol and NFL player Todd Kelly gave prior to the combine was better.
“It was motivating,” Taylor said. “It got you pumped.”
Kelly served as head coach of the seventh-grade team, with Maryville Middle’s Jay Malone as head coach of the victorious eighth-grade squad.