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Jamir Jones has earned his time in the spotlight

| Friday, November 22, 2019

Jamir Jones came to Notre Dame looking to join an elite program that had accumulated a 39-13 record over the past four years, with two bowl victories and a BCS National Championship game appearance to their name. However, Jones’ freshman year as a defensive lineman was hardly what he or anyone on the Irish had in mind. After a brutal 47-50 double-overtime loss at Texas to start the year, Notre Dame stumbled to a 4-8 record. Jones spent much of the year on special teams, playing well, but the season left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. 

Fast forward three years, and Jones is getting ready to graduate, capping off a career that saw him help the Irish rebound from their 2016 disaster, transforming Notre Dame back into an elite squad. In the last three seasons, the Irish went 30-6, and Jones became a key cog of a vastly improved defense. In that 2016 season, Notre Dame gave up 30 points in a game six times. They did so three times in 2017, but have been victimized for 30+ points just twice in the past two seasons.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish senior defensive lineman Jamir Jones blocks a lineman during Notre Dame’s 14-45 loss to Michigan at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 26.

“We gotta keep building into this brotherhood that we have. That’s why were so tight,” Jones said of the defensive unit. “We’ve seen the lows and we’ve seen the highs.”

One member of that brotherhood was Jones’ older brother, Jarron, a former Notre Dame standout and current lineman for the Buffalo Bills. Jarron was in his final year of eligibility when Jamir was a freshman, and it was actually on a visit with his older brother that Jamir first saw the Notre Dame campus. 

“It was so different from all the other schools. Everyone seemed so happy. The scenery was like none other. Going down that drive, seeing the Golden Dome, I was speechless. On gamedays, the tradition, the excellence around it, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Jones said. 

Then just starting high school, Jones would establish himself as a standout at the Aquinas Institute in Rochester, New York, and eventually landed an offer from Notre Dame. Turning down several offers from ACC schools like Pitt and Boston College, Jones headed to South Bend, where he quickly became an instrumental part of the roster. 

While he largely played special teams in that rocky freshman year, Jones absorbed as much as he could from the upperclassmen.

“James Onwualu, Te’Von Coney, Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, my brother, Jarron, all those guys .. they’ve all shaped me, people I wanted to be like and people who helped me throughout my years with the team,” Jones said, recalling several linebackers that helped him prepare for his transition to the defense. 

Jones’ role models were not limited to the football field, however.

“My brothers, my dad, my mom, for sure” Jones said with a smile. “My whole family, really. The stories they have to tell are unbelievable. They’re people I know I can always count on and look up to.”

Although not a starter, Jamir still made his presence known on Notre Dame’s improving defensive unit, recording four solo tackles his sophomore year and then another twelve his junior year. However, heading into his senior year, Jones found himself lower on the depth chart, thanks in part to a loaded senior class filled with NFL prospects like fellow senior defensive linemen Julian Okwara and sophomore Daelin Hayes. For a while, it looked like Jones may redshirt to preserve his eligibility, but a season-ending injury to Hayes changed those plans. Praised by coach Brian Kelly for his consistent work during practice even with a lack of playing time, Jones stepped up and grinded his way into the starting lineup, putting up stunning numbers in the process. In two less games than perceived top prospect Okwara, Jones has virtually matched his classmate with 17 tackles, six for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. Jones started last weekend’s game against No. 23 Navy, and he looks to be a mainstay in the lineup for the Irish’s final contests of 2019. 

Looking back at his career, Jones’ favorite memories include three straight victories over archrivals USC, including a trip to the Coliseum last year, where the Irish knocked off the Trojans to clinch an undefeated regular season and trip to the College Football Playoff.

“That was my favorite win”, Jones said. 

Jones hopes his career isn’t over, as he looks to earn an opportunity in the NFL, but he knows the importance of the bonds and connections he’s made these past four years.

“Twenty years down the road, I’ll still have brothers I can call,” he said.

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About Aidan Thomas

A junior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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