Jayhawk Insider: Impacting receivers both on and off the field
By: Bryce Reedy
After spending the last four seasons with Big 12 rival Texas Tech, newly-hired wide receivers coach Emmett Jones has found his new home in Lawrence. As he begins his first offseason with Kansas football, Jones is looking forward to the new challenges of turning a program around.
“I like coming to places where there is nowhere to go but up,” Jones said. “I sensed that immediately after I interviewed with coach [Les] Miles.”
After graduating from North Texas in 1990, Jones didn’t get his first coaching opportunity until 2001 with Seagoville High School in the Dallas, Texas area. After playing wide receiver in college, Smith was hoping for an opportunity to be around the game once again.
“It’s the natural competitive nature,” Jones said. “I am a competitive person, so I just wanted to be back around the sport and compete at the highest level possible.”
While his competitive nature did impact his career path, Jones was also looking for a way be a positive role model for some of the younger generation.
“I just wanted to be back around the game and be able to impact youngsters’ lives as much as I could,” Jones said. “I tried to set myself up where I could be a positive influence for those guys.”
As the years went on it became apparent that Jones had a knack for coaching. After working his way up the high school coaching ladder at three different high schools, Jones found an opportunity to become the head coach at South Oak Cliff High School in 2012. While there, Jones led the team to a 30-8 overall record, including going deep into the playoffs in all three seasons.
While Jones continued to have success at the high school level, a new opportunity arose that caught his attention. In 2015, Texas Tech had an opening as their director of player development that had his name written all over it. After having been a walk-on receiver at Tech in his collegiate days, Jones jumped at the opportunity to return.
“It was a priceless experience for me because I was able to get back in contact with most of those guys that I played ball with while I was at Texas Tech,” Jones said. “And at the same time see some of the influential people that were in my life during those times too. It was awesome. I had a story to tell some of those guys that were signing and playing for that team at Texas Tech and that was an experience that I will never forget.”
After only one year in player development, Jones became the outside receivers coach under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Despite being an assistant coach, Jones’ head coaching history gave him a good feel for how he could become successful at his new role.
“Being a head coach prepared me well just knowing what head coaches need out of their assistant coaches largely,” Jones said. “The comradery, communication level and just being trustworthy with each other. At the end of the day it is up to the assistant coaches to make sure that the head coach is being successful.”
And successful the team was. Under the direction of Jones Tech’s passing offense became one of the most feared in the country. In his first season (2016) as the outside receivers coach, the Red Raiders led the country in both total offense (566.6 yards per game) and passing offense (463.0 yards per game). The outside receivers themselves accounted for 1,835 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year.
“Emmett Jones is a dynamic wide receivers coach,” Head Coach Les Miles said. “The players he has worked with have really flourished under his guidance. He has developed them to have highly productive careers in college and also to go on to find success at the next level.”
One reason for Jones’ success with his receiving crew has been his emphasis on things outside of the playing field. Jones emphasizes how much a positive impact off the field can translate into becoming better on it.
“One thing that I always talked about to my guys is being likable,” Jones said. “Being likable throughout the city. Being likable throughout the university. Being likable throughout the community. Being likable throughout the program and the facility. If you do those things right, it is going to make your life much easier as a student-athlete.”
His teaching certainly stuck home with his receivers, and it certainly showed in their performance on the field. During Jones’ coaching career thus far he has helped send five receivers to the National Football League (NFL). That number will be increasing after this upcoming draft as well with former Tech receiver Antoine Wesley putting his name in the pool following his First-Team All-American, Second Team All-Big 12 and semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award season under the guidance of Jones.
Despite all of these accolades, stats and records though, Jones doesn’t point to any of those as his greatest moment as a coach thus far. Instead, he goes to the thing that got him interested in coaching in the first place.
“Impacting some of the guy’s lives that I coached,” Jones said. “Watching some of the guys that I was pretty much involved with in junior high. Getting them enrolled in my high school. Helping them become a successful student. A successful young man. Helping them develop into the best football player they could be. The best wide receiver they could be. Staying involved in those guys lives as they go off to college, watching them graduate, watching them become successful in their profession. Watching them become successful husbands, successful fathers. At the end of the day just watching those guys and passing out blessings to the next young generation that was up and coming. It gives me the strength to just keep pushing forward.”
Moving forward Jones hopes to continue to have success with Kansas, and he has no intentions of changing how he gets them.
“My approach won’t change at all,” Jones said. “Trying to raise that bar even higher with these guys. Everywhere I have been, even at the high school level, I have had some of the best wide receivers on the national scene. I won’t be changing my approach at all as far as developing wide receivers. Helping those guys become some of the best wide receivers.”