St. Louis parishioners celebrate son's Super Bowl play
By Loretta Shea Kline
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY - In the days after Mike Jones made the game-saving tackle for the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, the telephone rang almost constantly at the home of his parents, Leroy and Mary Jo Jones, long-time members of St. Louis Parish in Kansas City.
Friends, relatives, former teachers and coaches all wanted to offer their congratulations and talk about the play that became known in St. Louis and around the country as "the tackle."
"I've had so many calls, and so many people coming by," Mary Jo Jones said. "But I'm going to get back down to earth."
Mary Jo Jones talked with The Catholic Key by telephone from her home Feb. 2, shortly after watching her son on the Regis and Kathie Lee show, which is televised from New York. It was another highlight in a whirlwind week that included attending the Super Bowl Jan. 30 in Atlanta, and the following day riding with Mike, his wife and mother-in-law in a parade through downtown St. Louis in which more than 100,000 people jammed the streets to show their appreciation for the Rams.
"It was exciting," Mary Jo Jones said. "It was really unreal. We take it all as a blessing. It was wonderful."
Mary Jo Jones actually missed the play that has brought her son so much attention. Her view was blocked by all the fans who were standing inside the Georgia Dome. But she recalled those last tense moments beforehand, standing there with her husband and daughter.
"We just held each other's hands, and we prayed," Mary Jo Jones said. "I called on St. Anthony, St. Michael."
With just six seconds left in the game, and the Rams leading the Tennessee Titans 23-16, Tennessee had time for one last pass play from the 10. Titans quarterback Steve McNair hit receiver Kevin Dyson on a slant pattern, and Dyson was headed for the end zone. A Tennessee touchdown and extra point would have sent the game into overtime.
Just as it appeared Dyson would score, Mike Jones wrapped him up around the waist, grabbed his leg and pulled the Titans receiver down a yard short of the goal line, and with no time left on the clock. St. Louis had its first Super Bowl champion, and the Jones family and Kansas City had a Super Bowl hero.
"I'm a believer in the Holy Spirit," Mary Jo Jones said. "I was saying all the time strengthen him and enlighten him, and it happened."
The play was described in post-game analyses as textbook. ESPN sportscaster Dan Patrick said on a post-game show, "I can't think of a bigger tackle in Super Bowl history." Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce in a televised post-game interview called the tackle "the best defensive play I've ever seen."
Dyson, the Titans receiver, said the play worked the way Tennessee had scripted it. Jones just spoiled it.
"We worked on it in practice," Dyson said in a televised interview. "It worked the way we wanted it to. He made a great play."
Analysts said Jones, a linebacker and one of the Rams captains, did everything he was coached to do. But that's no surprise to those who know him. Leroy Jones said his son always worked hard at everything from his school work to athletic training.
"He worked hard for it," Leroy Jones said of his son's emergence as an NFL star. "He earned it."
The rest of the Jones siblings, who were seated just rows from their parents, didn't realize that their brother was the one who made the tackle until they saw a replay, Monica Jones said. "My little brother, Mark, said, 'Hey, that's Mike,'" she recalled.
Monica Jones said the tackle was a big subject of conversation as 42 family members - including her father, siblings, nieces and nephews - rode back to Kansas City on a chartered bus. The bus stopped at gas station after gas station in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri so family members could pick up newspapers from all over to read about the game and the tackle. They collected about 100 newspapers.
The Jones family decorated the bus with Rams stickers and signs that read "Mike Jones Family" and "Honk for the Rams." The children waved to the passing vehicles. When the bus traveled through Tennessee, of course, Titans fans gave a thumbs down, all in the spirit of fun.
"We were blessed that Mike provided for all of us to go down there," Monica Jones said.
Mike Jones has always been appreciative of his family's support, and it's not surprising that he wanted them with him on the biggest day of his NFL career. In a 1998 interview with The Key, Jones, who comes from a family of athletes, talked about the support he received from his parents and eight siblings. Attending sporting events of the Jones children was always a family affair.
"They were at all my games," Mike Jones said. "That's amazing."
Mike Jones attended St. Augustine School, which closed in 1989 as part of the reorganization of the Central City Catholic schools. He went on to Southwest High School and the University of Missouri, and began his NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders.
Mike Jones and his wife, Leslie, have three daughters. His Michael Jones Foundation awards academic scholarships to Kansas City and St. Louis high school students, and sponsors free football camps for children in five cities, including Kansas City and St. Louis.
Father Don Farnan, pastor of St. Louis Parish, said parishioners are happy for the Jones family.
"They are a wonderful family," Father Farnan said. "There are a lot of people here who watched him grow up."
A lot of Kansas City Chiefs fans in St. Louis Parish were rooting for Mike Jones and the Rams to win the Super Bowl, Father Farnan said.
"I wanted to rename the church St. Louis Rams Church," he quipped. "I was very, very happy for the Jones family." The success Mike Jones has enjoyed isn't an automatic thing, Father Farnan said.
"This doesn't happen naturally," he said. "It takes a lot of hard work and dedication and faith."