A Lesson In Balance

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By Jackson Long

It is a question that holds relevance through most of our lives, no matter the age. We have thought about it since our imaginations were able to grasp the concept. What would you do if you made it big?

For most of us, making it big would be to have fame, wealth or power. For the small group of elite college student-athletes for which these things are an attainable reality, the perceived answer is usually the same. Cars, houses, tropical vacations, jewelry, clothing, et cetera. That's because in most fans' minds we believe star college athletes to be gifted people, who when given the opportunity at the next level, will do their best to grab all the trappings of wealth and fame.

Whatever the case may be for the NCAA football players who are given a shot in the NFL, this certainly isn't the case for current University of California wide receiver Marvin Jones.

Jones, a senior for the Bears, is one of the Pac-12's premier pass-catchers. In the first three games of this season, Jones has already caught 17 balls for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns. He has led California is receptions and receiving yards for two consecutive seasons, starting 28 games over his career thus far and by the end of this, his senior season, he will most likely finish in the top ten in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in Cal history.

He is the recipient of both conference and nation-wide recognition and accolades and has both the size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) and skills to play in the NFL, being ranked by many in the top 30 receivers for next year's draft class. But for a player's career that is soaring as much as his, the high-flying Jones remains surprisingly grounded. If and when he makes it in the NFL, his first order of business does not having anything to do with new wheels or shoes.

"I want to play in the NFL and set up a non-profit organization that teaches kids mainly in lower-income places and minorities the basic walks of life like education, hygiene, et cetera, while teaching them the importance of being active in sports," Jones said. "I love to see kids happy, and for those who don't have the resources to be successful I want to help them out."

In talking with Jones, one can tell he is not just saying all the right things; he truly lives a life fulfilled by making others happy.

"I grew up in a humble setting, I have learned a lot of things at an early age that most people wouldn't necessarily experience," Jones said. "My life at home growing up was very effective in keeping me focused. Fast forward to now with me having a child at a young age, being forced to have responsibility and mature fast is what separates me from a lot of people."

On the second day of fall camp for Cal in his freshman year, Jones received a call from his girlfriend in Southern California notifying him that he was going to be a father. Before college had even started for Jones, his life had drastically changed.

Now Jones wakes up at 5:30 every morning at his home in the family housing development on the Cal Berkeley campus. He has breakfast with his girlfriend and son, and then goes to team meetings and practice. Then, he goes to class. He gets treatment for injuries and works out and then goes home. He balances a trifecta that sounds daunting to most: school, family and an athletic career. And soon he will add a second child to the mix, another son, due in November. But for Jones, his ability to effectively prioritize has made it routine for him.

"It is not difficult at all to balance it all," Jones said. "I go to school, practice and then I go home, there is nothing extra to me. There is nothing like having family, so I spend time with my son and my girl and don't go out at all."

His idea of the value of his family was instilled in him at a young age. He was raised with two sisters and a brother, and his father was a pastor so Jones went to church every Sunday. But he didn't feel restricted by his family.

"My dad did a good job of giving me the freedom to go out and do my own thing so that when I came to college I wasn't wild, like those guys you see who haven't let it out yet," Jones said.

Being settled and being there for others is what Jones is all about. Aside from his responsibilities as a father, a teammate and a student, he is a mentor, friend and leader, all rolled into one.

Jones is the only senior starter at an offensive skill position on Cal's team, and as such, he works to improve the players around him, especially sophomore receiver Keenan Allen.

"[Head coach Jeff Tedford] asked me to show him the ropes when [Allen] got here and once we bonded we have been together since," said Jones. "I do play a mentor role. He is a very polished receiver, but I teach him and he teaches me. But we mostly go out there and just have fun."

The two friends are a part of each other's daily lives and when they are not catching passes on the field, they like to sing R&B together. Their songs can be found on YouTube.

Three games into the 2011 season, Jones' time in the blue and gold uniform with his teammates is running out, but he hopes to continue playing football at the next level in the NFL.

"It would be great to go to the NFL," Jones said. "When I was little that was something I always said, that I wanted to go to the NFL. Right then, it was a dream, but just knowing now that I am very close to doing that it is crazy. I would be so grateful to achieve that dream and for my family who has been here with me since Pop-Warner, it would be a great thing for them. And for the family that I have started, to have the opportunity to be financially independent and to fulfill everything my family wants would be great."

When asked if after all the challenges he has gone through and the work he has put in, if he deserves the chance to go pro, Jones still wouldn't sacrifice his modesty.

"Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to good people too, but God has a plan for everybody," said Jones. "But with how hard I have worked and how I have let my game speak for itself, being a leader and all, I can just hope it pays off it the long run."

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