Cool Hand Jones
I was reading Dave Campbell’s 2015 Texas Football magazine this past summer and I read something that was said by Texas State Head Coach Dennis Franchione that I have heard him say over and over the past two years, ”Tyler (Jones) is Cool Hand Luke out there. He just does what he does. I thought after we scored the game-winning touchdown against Tulsa (last season) that I was going to have to resuscitate him – he wasn’t too excited.” Coach Fran has been comparing Jones to the fictional character played by Paul Newman in the title role of Cool Hand Luke, seemingly since Jones arrived to San Marcos. After the game in which Jones threw his first touchdown, Franchione said the same thing, calling him Cool Hand Luke and noting his surprise at Jones’ lack of excitement for his first touchdown. As many times as I’ve heard this, I hadn’t thought much of it, mainly because I didn’t know who Cool Hand Luke was. To be honest, I thought he was a cowboy, probably played by Clint Eastwood, that had a real steady hand and was “the best shooter this side of the Mississippi,” or something like that. Turns out that Luke is not a cowboy from the 1800’s but a prisoner from the 1950’s. His tenacity in a fight with a much larger inmate earns him the respect of his fellow prisoners, but it’s his card playing abilities that cement the timeless moniker bestowed upon him. After bluffing his way to victory with a nothing hand, he calmly says to the other inmates, “sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.” Outside of being sent to jail for two years for drunkenly breaking a bunch of parking meters and his behavior when breaking out of jail, Luke is a calm, collected character that others gravitate to because of his natural leadership qualities. He doesn’t tell them what to do, he just does it and they follow suit. Rarely brags but usually wins. He’s not the biggest but he is one of the toughest and is deceptively smart. If that doesn’t describe Tyler Jones, then I must have been looking at the wrong guy this whole time. Smiles are rare for Jones, at least big toothy ones. He grins pretty often, after a joke from a teammate or a dumb question from a reporter. It’s not that he is dissatisfied as much as he just constantly wants and expects more out of any situation that he is in. He is a consummate perfectionist and, if it isn’t perfect, he isn’t happy. Sometimes the issue with perfectionists is they overthink situations, hesitate and then fail. This was partially the case for Jones his first season at Texas State and maybe even some of last year, but there is no hesitation in Jones’ game now. Before, he would stare down his first read too long before deciding to take off. He was able to have success with one read at Stephenville high school, mainly because that one read was Brice Gunter. He accounted for nine touchdowns (five passing, four rushing) in the 2012 3A State Championship game to beat El Campo, 70-35. Once the redshirt was ripped off his freshman year and he was thrown out there as the Bobcats’ starter, he has been learning on the fly how to be a D1 quarterback. This fall, I’ve noticed his eyes move between 2-3 targets before he decides to run in the same time it used to take him to read the first one. The offense as a whole has not had the best camp, especially this past week, but Jones has progressed nicely. He’s bigger, stronger, more decisive and more confident. “I’ve just taken the physical aspect more seriously,” Jones said. “Being a freshman/sophomore, I didn’t feel like it was that important. Being in there my freshman year and breaking my wrist, spending my sophomore year trying to heal and rehab and going into my third year, I see how vital it is to bulk up and be able to take some hits. It’s a long season; it’s a 12 game stretch, 13 this year, hopefully. The physical aspect is what I worked on the most this offseason.” If there were an aspect of his game to criticize, it would be his deep ball. Anything within 15 yards, he is on the money, but I haven’t seen enough to be fully confident in balls thrown beyond that. This needs to be addressed if the Bobcats want to redeem their bowl-snubbing from last season. Despite a red shirt that never was, a baptism by fire, a serious wrist injury and a bowl game snub that still stings, Jones is 11-8 as the Bobcats’ quarterback. He wins despite obstacles, just like Cool Hand Luke. Now he needs to break TXST out of the jail of mediocrity they are in and get them to a bowl game. Jones has (mostly) seen it all his first two years and expectations couldn’t be higher for him in his third season. We’ve seen flashes of greatness from Jones but it is time for that greatness to become a consistent beam of light that shines over the Texas State football program. No more excuses for Jones, just results.
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