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Q&A: Nathaniel Jones, Secondary coach for UMHB football

Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/

BELTON- The UMHB coaching staff is noticeably different entering the 2022 season, as compared to last year’s, especially on the offensive side of the ball, where every full-time coach is in his first season with the program. On the defense, many of the same faces are still there, such as defensive coordinator Jack Johnson and defensive line/special teams coordinator Nick Brace. But there is one new face, the most recent addition to the staff: Nathaniel Jones. Hired in July, Jones has journeyed from New Orleans high schools, to pro teams in Europe, and to Dubuque, Iowa, as the cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator in 2021 at Loras College (D-III). He will be the Cru’s secondary coach, working primarily with the cornerbacks and safeties whose play will be vital throughout the fall. 

True To The Cru recently sat down with Jones, to get his perspective on his coaching experience, developing young players, and who inspired him to return to the sidelines as a coach following his playing career at Louisiana-Monroe.

Photo of Nathaniel Jones courtesy of the UMHB Athletics Department

What made you decide to take this position on the UMHB coaching staff? 

NJ: “The history of success is definitely something that makes [the program] attractive to any coach, on any level. You want to win. You want to be successful. You want to be around winners, so that was big for me and hopefully I can add value to not only the staff, but also the UMHB family.”

Your coaching career has taken you around the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean (more on that below). You head coached two high school programs,worked as an assistant at two others, and served on the staff at five colleges before coming to UMHB. How did coaching in those different environments at different levels of the sport shape you and your style? 

NJ: “I think you see things from a different perspective. Your angle and point of reference changes and evolves based on your experience. I played Div. I football and my high school had a great deal of success winning state championships as a player. Then coaching at the NAIA and D3 level, you have a greater respect for what the young men go through as far as financially and the commitment that they have to have to be able to play on this level. 

“The thing that sticks out is, football is football on any level. Your conference is important to you, whether it’s playing for the district championship in high school or a conference championship or the Super Bowl. All of those things are important to the guys in each of those games because of the work it took to get there.

“Being a head coach, you are able to understand what a head coach needs from his assistants as well. It gives you a great deal of perspective.”

You began your coaching career in 2000. What initially drew you to that career path?

NJ: “I think it is always, for the most part, the fact that you have good coaches that you work with and who have an impact on your life. When they have an impact on your life, it makes you want to have an impact on other guys’ lives. I think it was God who moved me into the coaching field, and that this is the ministry He’s given to me. At the end of the day, it’s bigger than just football. It’s about developing young men, because one day they’re going to become husbands, and fathers.”

Who were some of those coaches who had a profound impact on your life? 

NJ: “One is Al Ott; he played on the 1958 LSU national championship team. He’s a New Orleans legend. He’s quite a man, who cared about kids and their development. We had a great deal of success as a junior high and high school program at Edna Karr. I played multiple sports as well, so all the coaches in my life influenced me [to go into coaching].”

One of the cool opportunities you’ve had while as a coach was your experience going overseas to work with NFL Europe in scouting and player development. What did you take away from that short time in London? 

NJ: “It was great living overseas. We actually lived in London, and it was cool to explore everything. It was a great opportunity to go see the world and also work with football and scouting and player development for the NFL. It was short-lived, because they closed down NFL Europe. Then I had to “come back over the pond” as they would say. But it was a great experience and I got the chance to see different cultures and how people lived. It was a blessing that a kid from New Orleans was living in downtown London.” 

You’re set to coach a Secondary group that saw its two starting safeties and a starting cornerback graduate after last season. How do you work to get some of those younger players into the mix and help them develop and gain experience? 

NJ: “You just try to get a feel for the guy and how he learns. You take it from ground zero and teach him the fundamental things like technique, alignment assignment, and paying attention to details. It’s a natural maturation in helping that young man grow as a player, step by step. I tell them, ‘Just try to get better each day, try to be excellent today. If you do that, you’ll feel really good about what you’ve put together.’” 

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