BETHESDA, Md. (WDVM) – Aaron Jones lives and breathes football.
“I love sports. So I’ll play any type of sport,” Jones said. “It’s just that football, it’s like different, the activity, the movement, the hitting, the competition. And I love competing.”
Jones, a senior at Walter Johnson high school, has always been able to play, but hasn’t always been able to hear his favorite sport.
“His ear drums didn’t develop so he was born completely deaf,” Jones’ father Abraham Jones told WDVM.
But being deaf never kept Jones off the field.
“I [couldn’t] hear so it was pretty normal for me,” Jones said. “It was just like playing backyard football. We were just playing.”
He started playing flag football when he was seven and quickly worked his way up to tackle football.
“Playing deaf, there were some challenges, but not so much for Aaron,” Abraham Jones said. “I found that the bigger challenges were with the adults, the coaches. Most coaches had never coached a deaf kid.”
But a lack of hearing did present an academic challenge for Jones. When he was two years old, Jones underwent surgery to receive a cochlear implant, a device that could help him hear. But catching up to those that could hear was still a process for Jones.
“Aaron was in speech therapy three times a week, for seven or eight years, so it was a lot of intensive work to get him caught up with speech and hearing,” Abraham said.
Despite the extra work, it wasn’t long before Jones was excelling in the classroom. He has posted a 4.12 GPA. But entering his junior season of football, he was eagerly awaiting his chance on the field.
“My first two years I was struggling getting opportunities, coaches weren’t giving me opportunities,” Jones said.
Jones wore a special helmet, that allowed him to play with his cochlear implant. When his number was called to take the field as a starter, he was ready.
“I started balling and playing,” Jones told WDVM. “Doing what I gotta do to help the team win.”
In 2019, Jones rushed for 1,245 yards, averaging just over 8 yards per rush and scoring 16 touchdowns. He helped Walter Johnson to its first state playoff appearance in school history.
“It’s a result of his hard work. The work he’s put in in the classroom and on the football field,” Abraham said. “As a parent, it’s always good to see that hard work come to fruition.”
Abraham played football at Penn himself and he is excited to see Aaron don the same uniform. Aaron says he’s ready for his next step.
“I always believed that I was going to be able to play college football,” Jones said. “I just didn’t know when people were going to look at it that way.”
Jones tells WDVM that he received seven offers before committing to Penn, and expected more to come if he hadn’t committed as early as he did.
“It feels good,” Jones said. “I feel like everything that I’ve been working up to has been accomplished.”
But Jones also knows that there is still work ahead. His career goal is to become a general manager in the National Football League.
“Of course I want to make the NFL, but I want opportunities, choices and paths, which is why I feel like UPenn is a good place for that,” Jones said.