Alcorn turns to former player to transform program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JACKSON — Ernest Jones has yet to prove himself as a college football head coach.

But don’t ever let it be said that he can’t work a room.

Jones was announced as the new head football coach at Alcorn State University Tuesday morning at a press conference in Jackson and wowed the crowd of media members and Brave fans with his mix of enthusiasm and charisma.

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“The bar has been set,” Jones told the crowd. “We’re going to continue to raise it higher.”

Jones, who played wide receiver for the Braves in mid-1990s, was thankful about the opportunity to become the head coach at his alma mater.

“This is a true homecoming,” Jones said. “It’s hard to put it into words. It’s always been a goal of mine to come back to Alcorn State. To be able to play here and then come back and coach here is very exciting.”

Jones comes to Alcorn after one year as running backs coach at Cincinnati. Before then he was running backs coach at Central Michigan and helped the Chippewas win the Mid-American Conference and Motor City Bowl.

Jones drew a loud ovation from the crowd when he held up the SWAC championship ring he won as a wide receiver for Alcorn State in 1994 — where he caught passes from current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair — and told them he planned to get the Braves back to winning championships.

“I’ve won a MAC championship, a Motor City Bowl championship (both at Central Michigan) and a International Bowl championship (at Cincinnati), but the one that means the most to me is this one,” Jones said, holding his fist out so the crowd could see the SWAC championship ring. “And I won’t stop working until I get another one.”

The press conference took on the appearance of a church revival with Jones as the preacher, as he told a responsive crowd of his plans to recruit the entire state of Mississippi for talent.

“I truly believe some of the best football players in the country come from right here in Mississippi,” Jones said to the roar of the crowd. “I’ve been labeled a good recruiter and am going to continue to do that.”

Jones said he would personally visit every high school in the state to find what he called RKG’s, or “right kind of guys” for Alcorn.

He also promised to stress academics in his players and “graduate young men who will leave here and do something special in society.”

Alcorn State Interim Athletic Director Wiley Jones said he believed the school had found the right man for the job.

“He has a lot going for him,” Wiley Jones said. “He has been successful in turning programs from losing to winning and prepared himself for elevating to the next level of coaching.”

The athletic director said he expects Ernest Jones to be able to turn the Alcorn program back into a championship contender in the near future, but said he didn’t expect immediate results.

“We expect him to turn this program into a winner,” Wiley Jones said. “He has the zeal and desire to do it. I don’t necessarily expect that next year because he has to have some time to get this program back on good footing, but I don’t think it will take a half dozen years to get it done.”

As for the new head coach, he said he was ready to get started turning the Braves program back into a contender in the SWAC.

“Alcorn State is a part of me and always will be a part of me,” Ernest Jones said. “You asked for something special and I’m something special. I’m proud to be back.”