The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

May 18, 2010

Faith helps drive Jones

ENID —

Landry Jones wants people to know his life is more than throwing touchdown passes as the starting quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Jones has taken advantage of his status as a platform for sharing his spiritual faith at Fellowship of Christian Athletes functions.

“My faith has to be No. 1 in my life,’’ Jones said before speaking to the FCA’s Northwest Okla-homa fundraising banquet Tuesday. “What’s this life for?’’

Jones has been involved with FCA since his high school days at Artesia, N.M. He is on the leadership council on OU’s FCA chapter.

“The FCA has given me an opportunity to step out and speak more,’’ Jones said. “I’m getting more involved and letting people know about my faith.’’

Jones’ appearance helped draw a crowd which attracted a 50-table audience.

“I don’t know if I ever spoke to as big crowd as this,’’ Jones said. “I’m excited about that.’’

Jones accepts his role as a role model for the younger athletes who came to hear him speak.

“I try to be the best that I can be,’’ he said. “I’m obviously human. I’m not going to be perfect, but I’m going to do the best that I can.’’

Being the OU quarterback gives him a little more creditability with the audience.

“It’s part of your platform,’’ Jones said. “You can build it with more authority. People will listen to you more.’’

While speaking to a packed house, Jones admits it’s not as nerve-wracking as playing in front of 80,000 plus fans at Owen Field.

“I think this has helped me with my leadership,’’ said Jones about his speaking. “I’m becoming more vocal and more comfortable talking with big crowds.’’

Jones’ faith helped him through the trials and tribulations of placing an injured returning Heisman Trophy winner (Sam Bradford) as the OU quarterback, beginning in the second half of the season opener with Brigham Young.

“I could always put life in perspective,’’ Jones said. “It was pretty tough. Coach (Josh) Heupel was always telling us to prepare like you’re the starter. I did that. But it’s a lot different preparing like you’re starter and being the starter and playing.’’

Jones handled the pressure well throwing for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. He threw 14 interceptions.

“I feel a lot more comfortable now,’’ Jones said.

He became even a more vocal leader in spring practice.

“I’m stepping into a bigger role with Sam gone,’’ Jones said. “It’s my team to lead. It’s my thing. I felt I had a good spring.’’

True freshman Kenny Stills emerged as a receiving threat in the spring along with returnees such as Ryan Broyles, Jaz Reynolds, Brandon Caleb, Cameron Kenney and Trent Rattertree.

Jones went into the spring carrying the momentum of a Sooner bowl record 418 yards passing in a 31-27 win over Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

“I was pleased with how we ended the year,’’ he said. “I felt like the offense was building since the Oklahoma State game (27-0 OU win). I want to keep that going into this year.’’

Jones was pleased with his progress, but was frustrated by an 8-5 season in which four of the five losses were by a touchdown or less.

The win over Stanford, he said, was something OU could build on since it was both a close game and away from Norman. OU was 6-0 at home but 2-5 away from Owen Field.

“We didn’t end up having the record we wanted to have,’’ Jones said. “There’s stuff we still need to work on. We have to improve what kind of team we are away from home. I think we have the chance to play for the national championship this season.’’

He learned from Bradford, the No. 1 choice in the recent NFL Draft.

“What I got from Sam was to get yourself in a rhythm,’’ he said. “You don’t force stuff down the field early. You get in a rhythm and start getting in the flow.’’

Heupel, who led OU to the 2000 national championship, is Jones’ mentor.

“I can’t think of anybody other than him that I would want to be coaching me,’’ he said.

Jones likes the attention of being the OU quarterback.

“It’s good every once in awhile to be acknowledged for what you’re doing,’’ he said.

The negatives have been few so far.

“I don’t know what the hardest thing is,’’ Jones said. “Some days are harder than others. Some days are easier than others.’’

Jones drew attention for two other things — his mustache and dating OU women’s basketball star Whitney Hand.

“I sometimes still get attention for the mustache,’’ said Jones, who drew signs of “Fear the Stache’’ in the stands.

Hand missed most of her sophomore season after tearing her ACL. She, too, is involved with FCA and currently is Haiti with her teammates helping with relief efforts from the recent earthquake there.

“I tried to help her get through it the best I could,’’ Jones said. “It was a tough time for her but she did a good job of rehabbing to get back.’’

Jones was the No. 1-rated player in New Mexico by Rivals.com coming out of his native Artesia, N.M. He was the No. 3-rated quarterback by ESPN and No. 6 by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Still, it’s heady stuff for someone who grew up in a town of 12,000, to be the quarterback of one of college football’s powerhouses.

“I always wanted to play college football,’’ he said. “It’s nice getting to play. I’m blessed that I get to.’’

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