"Nazair has been through quite a bit," Roanoke Rapids head coach Russell Weinstein said. "If you could have seen him in January, there's no way you could imagine he is where he is right now. It's truly by the grace of God and a lot of really good doctors and people who took care of him to bring him back to health. Even in his darkest days, he never hung his head."
Last November, Jones was sidelined by a medical condition that initially puzzled doctors. It also led the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive lineman to lose a significant amount of weight.
"Nazair suffered an injury that we were not aware of," Weinstein said. "And Nazair kept trying to play through pain and what happened was the injury was not healing properly and caused some nerve damage. It was in an area that could cause a lot of bad things when it's near your spinal column."
Jones has since fully recovered and was cleared by doctors to work out with his teammates in June with no limitations.
"His muscular responses are coming back beautifully," Weinstein said. "When the big fella' is running now at full speed and not getting tired, I see the same kid that I saw last year. He's almost there."
When Roanoke Rapids opens the 2012 football season on Friday, Weinstein expects to use Jones in the same capacity as last season.
"There are no limitations," Weinstein said. "He's going to play fulltime on defense and he's going to play half the time on offense – just like he did last season. The doctors have released him with no limitations and we're not going to baby Nazair."
Furthermore, the injury isn't expected to reoccur at any point during Jones's football career.
"I think this thing is under control," Weinstein said.
Jones says the turbulent ten months taught him the importance of perseverance, prayer, and self-motivation. He believes those lessons will follow him into his college career and beyond.
Weinstein witnessed the education of Jones firsthand.
"I saw a kid that never would give up," Weinstein said. "I saw a kid on more than one occasion communicate with me and say ‘Coach, I will not let this thing whip me.'"
Check back tomorrow for Part II ...