MCKINNEY, Texas — Two days before Ronald Jones II played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game, he was honored by his high school, as the McKinney Independent School District inducted him in their Hall of Honor.
"I'm preparing for the NFC Championship," Jones said in a taped message that played at the ceremony. "I hope to make you all proud, and put on for the city."
Amid the playoffs, and with COVID-19 protocols what they are, Jones couldn't get away for the ceremony. So his mother Jacque Jones accepted the honor on his behalf.
"I got teary-eyed, looking at the highlights," Jacque said. "It was very sentimental, emotional, just thinking of where he started."
Jones is now preparing to play in Super Bowl LV, as the Bucs get set to play the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. But where it all started for Jones was at McKinney North, with head coach Mike Fecci.
"When he was coming out of middle school, he wasn't a guy that we looked at and said 'You know, that guy's gonna be special,'" Fecci said. "We knew he was a good player, but we didn't know that."
But before he could get too far into his high school career, tragedy struck the Jones family.
Ronald Jones, Sr., a 27-year Army veteran, had struggled with a failing heart.
"He was on the list for a transplant, but it never came to pass," Jacque said. "You know you always... you're hopeful. That something will change in our favor."
Unfortunately, that change never came. Ronald Jones, Sr. died at 46 years old, early in his son's sophomore year of high school.
"He actually left school for about three weeks," Fecci recalled. "The funeral was in Georgia, so he went to Georgia, spent time with family."
"He was kind of refusing to go back to school," Jacque said. "And Tre Smith, the running back, broke his collarbone. So one of the coaches called him and said 'We need you Ronald to come back.' And that lit a fire in him.
"And he's been running the football ever since."
Quickly upon his return, Jones made a profound impact.
"I think he had 6 touchdowns, and like 240 yards on something crazy like 9 carries, or something like that," Fecci said. "That was the moment for me, where I saw a whole different guy, at a whole different level, and a whole different speed and gear than everyone else on the field."
Ever since, every down, he's been playing for his father.
"Him and his father shared the love of football together," Jacque said. "So, it's definitely something that's heavy on his mind every time he plays."
"I know there's no one more proud of Ronald than his dad right now," Fecci said. "And he's been able to see every game Ronald's been able to play in, since that time."
And now, he gets to see his son play on Super Bowl Sunday.
"This is one of your dreams, your childhood dreams," Jacque said. "And it's just awesome to see that every thing he wished for is coming true."
With his father's name on his back.