VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) – Joe Jones has lived the football life since he first started playing the game in ninth grade. He fell in love with the sport, played tight end at Virginia Tech, enjoyed a short stint in the NFL, and aside from a six-year hiatus, has been on the sidelines as a head coach since 1986.
On Sunday night, Jones decided it was time for the next chapter, and announced his retirement from coaching. “After 280 games as a head high school coach, and I counted 456 games as a player and a coach at some point somewhere, I just felt like this was the right time,” said Jones, who will step down after five years as the head man at Ocean Lakes High School.
Before his arrival in Virginia Beach, Jones was a head coach at King’s Fork, Smithfield, Franklin and Windsor. His Ocean Lakes team beat Oscar Smith for the Class 6A region championship in 2018. “Nothing but fond memories,” said Jones.
While Jones will continue to teach, he will also take time to focus on his health and family. He’s needed multiple surgeries for nagging football injuries, and has another one on his shoulder scheduled in the Summer. “I still love the game,” he said.
“(I) Can’t move around like I used to, can’t demonstrate things the way I used to.”
Over a coaching career that has spanned longer than three decades, Jones has guided and mentored thousands of student athletes, and has always considered football the greatest means to make men out of boys.
“We want them to be great dads, granddads, and uncles,” said Jones. “We want them to be good company men and work hard, make a good living and be successful in life.”
Chuck Clark played defensive back for Jones at King’s Fork, became an impact player under Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, and is now enjoying a career as a playmaker for the Baltimore Ravens. He credits Jones for helping him set a solid foundation.
“(Joe Jones) preached always to keep grinding,” said Clark. “Regardless of the situation, how tough it got, or how easy it got, just keep grinding. I think that’s something that always sticks with me.”
A gentleman off the field, Jones was also a fierce competitor on the field, and says Fridays won’t quite have the same feel for a while. He plans to continue teaching for at least five years, but doesn’t rule out a return to the sideline as an assistant coach somewhere down the line.
For now, he’ll enjoy the game from a different perspective…a seat in the stands, as a spectator.