Julius Jones remembers the day well. "It was a pretty low day for me," said Jones when asked to remember the day he found out he was academically ineligible. "I tried to come back here and see if there was anything I could do and there was nothing I could do. From then on, I had to figure out what I had to do next. I talked with my parents and my brother and we decided the best thing for me to do was to go out to Arizona State and spends some time with my brother. I decided to take some classes there and to try to get back in here at Notre Dame."
Jones admits that he thought about going to another school for a while. "I thought about everything and going to another school. I just thought that the best thing I could do was to try to get back in here and finish up. I just wanted to finish here--I didn't want to leave on bad terms. I had goals here and if I left without accomplishing those goals, I would've failed in reaching those goals and that is not something I wanted to live with. I felt that Notre Dame was the best place for me."
The Big Stone Gap, VA native spent time with his brother Thomas—someone he's looked up to his whole life. "He's a huge inspiration in my life. Every since we were little, I've always watched him and watched the things he does and tried to model myself after him. Spending the year out there with him and watching the things he did just made me more excited to get back here and accomplish the things that I wanted to do and put myself into the position he is in."
The regimen brother Thomas forced upon Julius was difficult but the results have been outstanding. "He definitely worked me out there. I did everything he did and I ate what he ate, worked out the same way he worked out. He stayed on me about that but I also wanted to do it myself too. It wasn't all him, I had that inside me and I wanted to get it done. You have to have it inside you or you can't do what I did."
Some members of the Arizona State team tried to get Jones to transfer but his mind was set on Notre Dame and getting back to Notre Dame. "I had a few members of their team in classes that tried to drop hints on me all the time but I just had to shrug it off. They were all real nice people but I just had to come back here for the reasons I said before."
Jones worked hard all year in both the class room and in the weight room. He also remembers the day he found out he would be back at Notre Dame. "It felt great—like all the hard work paid off. I was basically away for a year and that was hard. It was hard to watch the team but I watched every game and I was so happy for them. I would come here and visit but that wasn't good enough. Everyone was very happy for me and I was definitely happy. I just felt that I was missing something. I'm glad that a couple of guys from my class are still here so I can have some people to relate to."
Jones has just one goal set for this year. "Win, they won last year and I wasn't a part of that and that hurt me pretty bad," said Jones. "I've never been a part of a great season since I've been here. I'm looking forward to playing for Coach Willingham and just getting back involved and making the best of every opportunity they give me."
The time off from football was time well spent. Jones clearly has the football physique and looks to be in the best shape of his life. "I missed taking the hits. The big hits I can do without but I missed being out there. I love football and I love playing the game. I wouldn't play if I didn't have some joy out of it. I definitely missed it and it felt great taking that first shot and working back into it. I weigh about 210 right now and I feel faster, more explosive and I'm definitely stronger—I feel real good."
Jones says he came back with no guarantees and will be happy with any opportunity this coaching staff gives him. "Whatever opportunity they give me, I'm going to try to make the best out of it. If it's special teams or running the ball, I'll do whatever they ask of me. I just want to get out there on the field."
Taking a year off has left Jones behind in knowing the offense. He said he's feeling more comfortable with the offense but still doesn't have it down completely. "I feel like I'm doing pretty good. I'm still learning the offense and I'm sure by the 10th game of the season I'll still be learning the offense. I feel real good right now and I'm starting to learn the offense and I'm feeling more confident out there."
Jones said he made a promise to his Mom—a promise he will keep. "I told her I was going to come back here and take care of all that stuff (graduate). That's a large part of why I came back here and a goal that I want to accomplish."
Spending time with Julius, one gets the sense that a big weight has been lifted off his shoulders. Jones is smiling every time we see him. He knows that he is down on the depth chart. He knows that the other backs have worked very hard this summer and are eager for playing time. Just another goal for Jones to conquer and he's been doing that all of his life.