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Perspectives' Football Coach Overcomes Shootings, Stabbing to Lead Team

By Justin Breen | August 16, 2013 6:42am
 Terry Jones is the head football coach at Perspectives Charter Schools.
Terry Jones
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AUBURN GRESHAM — Jahleel Griffin believes there's a good explanation for why Terry Jones, the head football coach at Perspectives Charter Schools, is still around after dodging death three times.

"His purpose in life is to help us," said Griffin, a senior running back and strong safety on the team, which opens its season later this month after reaching the playoffs last year for the first time in the program's six-year history. "If he went through all of that pain and suffering, there's some reason he has to be on this earth."

When Jones, now 39, was in fourth grade, he was standing in the playground at Bond Elementary School when he was hit in the right arm by a stray bullet.

In eighth grade, while "play wrestling" with a classmate at Bond, Jones was shocked when his opponent pulled out a knife and stabbed him just above his groin area.

"I looked down and I saw my guts hanging out," said Jones, an Englewood native, Robeson High School graduate and Washington Heights resident.

In February 1998, months before Jones would earn an MBA at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, he was hanging out with friends outside a South Side bar when he was shot five times in a drive-by. Jones was riddled with bullets in the chest, left ankle and left knee cap.

He lived.

"Why am I alive? Faith in God and a praying mom," Jones said of his mother, Cherry Jones, who died in 1996.

"She sent many prayers down," he said.

Although he would not let his body be photographed, when shown to a reporter, his torso was a collage of knobs and scar tissue. Below his belly button, a good-sized chunk of flesh and skin had been removed. Bullet fragments are still lodged in his knee.

A few of Jones' players know his background story. Senior offensive lineman Chris Hawkins, who is being recruited by a handful of Division I schools, said Jones is an incredible motivator and a powerful speaker.

"He never thought he was going to die," said Hawkins, of Bridgeport. "He always stayed positive about everything."

But Jones wasn't always a great orator — he grew up with a "terrible" stutter and took 12 years of speech therapy classes.

"Initially words weren't coming out correctly," Jones said. "I'm still working on it, but it's gotten much better."

Jones, who is in his fourth season, has started to see results on the field. The Warriors, who draw players from Perspectives' three South Side campuses, finished 7-3 last year and reached the first round of the IHSA Class 6A postseason.

"It's due to Coach Jones' leadership," said Brainerd resident and Perspectives offensive coordinator Mark Randle, a distant cousin of Jones who also graduated from Robeson. "He's a hard worker, very detailed, and he builds relationships with young kids."

Perspectives opens the season Aug. 31 against Gary Comer Charter Prep at Stagg Stadium with goals this year of going unbeaten and winning at least one playoff game.

If the Warriors are seeking more inspiration, Griffin said they only need to look at their head coach.

"Sometimes I think he has more confidence in me than I have in myself," said Griffin, of South Shore.

"He sees potential in everyone."