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Where Are They Now? P Donnie Jones

Donnie Jones
Donnie Jones

The Eagles learned of an LSU connection while they were looking for a punter in 2013, and signed two former Tigers. Same university, vastly different levels of experience.

Originally a seventh-round draft pick by Seattle in 2004, Donnie Jones, a two-time All-Pro, was going into his 10th season in the NFL, having played for the Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, then-St. Louis Rams, and Houston Texans, when he agreed to a contract as a veteran free agent.

Philadelphia also signed rookie free agent Brad Wing, who opted to forgo his final two years at LSU after his sophomore season. With a 10-year age gap, they were obviously never teammates in the Bayou, but they did have a history.

"I think it was maybe in 2012 when I was with the Texans, Brad was at LSU and I'd come home in the offseason," Jones says. "I didn't know how to do the Aussie punt. It used to be just a plus-50 punt, but now guys are doing it all over the field. And his dad (David) was actually the one that taught me that punt. I remember him saying something like, 'Yeah, I don't mind working with you now, but next year, Brad will be your competition.'

"I was thinking he was joking because Brad had a couple of years of school left. But it ended up he did come out and he ended up in Philadelphia. So that was pretty crazy. There was pretty much no guarantee. It was just kind of come in and compete. And so I went in there and competed and ended up winning the job."

Even though he had more experience than most on the team, including first-year Head Coach Chip Kelly, Jones didn't assume the role of being a team leader, but rather was just one of the guys with a job to do.

"I think over time, being one of the older guys, I guess you kind of establish yourself," Jones says. "But I don't think I ever really saw myself as that (a leader). I would just try to go in and do what I could to give the team the best field position in order to have a chance to be successful in the game."

Back-to-back 10-6 seasons were followed by back-to-back 7-9 seasons, and in 2017 under a new head coach, the Eagles posted a 13-3 record and went on to win Super Bowl LII.

"I think it started with Doug Pederson. Nobody really gave him a shot. And I think (Jason) Kelce had alluded to that in his Super Bowl victory speech at the parade, that we're just a group of underdogs," Jones says. "I thought it was a group of guys who just worked extremely well together, it was a group of guys who battled adversity that whole year. I mean, we had so many injuries to key players. And those guys that got hurt stayed around and helped the guys behind them. I really think it was a true team.

"As a player in the league, your goal every year is to have an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. For me, it took 14 years. And I think to finally reach the peak and get to celebrate as a team, as champions, was really something that was truly remarkable. I was part of a National Championship at LSU, and getting to be a part of that, two championship teams, is really something special."

Playing five seasons for Philadelphia, Jones had 374 punts for a gross average of 45.4 yards per punt, second all time on the team, and a 40.5-yard net average, also second in team history. With his final game as an Eagle being when he helped beat New England for the Lombardi Trophy, what comes to mind when he looks at his Super Bowl ring?

"Oh, man. Fourteen years of grind, very stressful, a pressure-fill role," Jones said. "I don't really wear it a whole lot. It's very big. But it's definitely something where you look at it and go, 'Man, we achieved it. We accomplished it.' And I think that's something that seeing how hard it is to do it, Philadelphia has come close (to winning it again in the 2022 season), but to really get to that point and kind of seal the deal, I think it just speaks to how special the group of guys were that we had that year.

"And I think that of all the places I played, Philadelphia, by far, in speaking of the fans, was the most passionate group, for sure. They let you know it when you were doing good, and they also let you know when you weren't."

Retiring after playing 12 games in the 2018 season with the Los Angeles Chargers, his 15th year in the league, Jones and his wife, Aubrie, make their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he's now enjoying just being a dad.

They have a son, Weston, who's finishing his sophomore year at Catholic High School, his dad's alma mater, and was a punter and holder on the JV team last season. "I've always told him, 'Look, I want you to find something that you want to do and work at it. I don't want you to feel like you've got to follow my path.' So he goes to school and they have their workouts and all this stuff, and he does his own. I told him, 'If you ever would like Dad's help, I'm here to give you any advice I can give you.' And his response is 'I'm good, Dad. I've got it.' So I said, 'OK,'" laughed Jones.

They also have a daughter, Addison, who will enter high school later in the summer. "She does track, cross country. She likes the arts and theater and cheer and dance," Jones says. "It's crazy, just kind of looking back over the years how quick they grow up. So since I've got done, I just try to spend as much time as I can with the kids. I was gone a lot. I played in six cities and you miss a lot when you when you're doing that.

"There's offseason stuff, there's traveling, there's everything involved. So when I got done, I said, 'I'm going to be here and just be present for them. Whatever I can do to just spend time with them and help them out.' I just kind of moved back and got out of all the limelight. It's been six years since I finished. I kind of just live a low-key, quiet life."

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