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The 2007 Notre Dame Football Season: The Tumultuous Times of Demetrius Jones

SB Nation is taking an in-depth look at the wacky 2007 college football season, so I figured I’d recount the football journey of Demetrius Jones, Notre Dame’s 2007 opening day starter at QB

Georgia Tech v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

SB Nation is celebrating the wild and weird 2007 college football season, and Notre Dame was a major player in contributing that weirdness to the world.

So, despite the pain this may cause all of us, we’re revisiting some of the weird stuff that happened during that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad 2007 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season.

Right now, let’s talk about the absolute enigma that is and was the career of Demetrius Jones. Jones was ND’s 2007 opening day starter at quarterback, and just never seemed able to find a stable home for his once-promising football career.

Charlie Weis’ First Blue-Chip QB Recruit

The Notre Dame football program looked to be in pretty good shape heading into 2007. Sure, the team was likely going to experience a down year because of the bare cupboard left by Ty “Golf > Recruiting” Willingham. But after back-to-back 10-3 seasons that ended with appearances in BCS bowl games (even if the results of said bowl games were moderately to completely embarrassing), Charlie Weis tore up the recruiting trail in assembling his first full class in 2006, and followed it up with another strong recruiting year in 2007.

So, there was plenty of hope for the program’s future. The first major reason for that hope was the 2006 recruiting class, which was entering its second year in the program, and which featured, according to 247sports:

  • the top offensive tackle in the country, Sam Young
  • a pair of blue-chip corners in Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil
  • 5-star running back James Aldridge
  • the No. 2 TE in the class, Konrad Reuland
  • seven other 4-star recruits, including the No. 6 QB in the class, Zach Frazer
  • a few 3-stars like Sergio Brown and Robby Parris, who would end up as starters or major contributors before they graduated
  • Demetrius Jones, the No. 3 QB in the class and No. 46 recruit overall

Jones wasn’t the highest rated recruit, as Young, Aldridge, and Reuland were all more highly coveted, at least rankings-wise. But the kid was electric, and his commitment was extremely exciting for the program (just look at how long the high school accolades section of his UND.com profile was). Weis had managed to land the super-talented, dual-threat signal caller out of Chicago despite the presence of Frazer already in the class and the knowledge that Weis was pursuing all-world QB recruit Jimmy Clausen in the ensuing 2007 class. That was huge.

Jones held offers from the likes of Ohio State, Tennessee, Louisville, and North Carolina when he committed in August 2005. Although he was a huge get at the time, it was with bated breath that the Irish faithful sat and waited to see him in real action.

He redshirted his freshman year along with Frazer, while Brady Quinn had a Heisman-finalist senior season in 2006. Obviously, the Blue-Gold Game in 2007 couldn’t offer much intel into whether Jones would seize the job come the following fall, or if someone else like the super-frosh Clausen or even safer choices like Frazer or incumbent backup Evan Sharpley might be handed the keys.

The 2007 QB Derby — It Was Lots of Fun Until It Wasn’t

With Quinn’s graduation and selection as a late first round NFL Draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, the race for the starting QB spot was wide open in the spring of 2007:

  • Evan Sharpley was a junior who had served as backup to Quinn, and was a pro-style quarterback who, although not a sexy pick, would likely be reliable under center.
  • Zach Frazer was a lower-rated (but still very talented) QB in the same class as Jones, but he had all the tools and was more of a pro-style QB, which would fit Weis’ pro-style system.
  • Jimmy Clausen was the freshman QB with all the tools and potential in the world, and who lots of fans wanted to start immediately, because they believed he was the LeBron James of football.
  • Demetrius Jones, meanwhile, stood out as a very different and exciting choice. Unlike the other three, Jones was a gifted runner, and had made a name for himself with the playmaking ability he showed on the scout team during his redshirt freshman season. The one downside was that he wasn’t a prototypical pro-style QB, but he did still have a big arm and the general ability to make things happen on the gridiron. So there was certainly a contingent of ND fans who envisioned a Tony Rice type of QB, but much better at passing, and expected a star to emerge.

The summer of 2007 was the most up-in-the-air QB derby ND had had in a long time. It was so intense that Frazer eventually decided to transfer after he found himself the odd man out and likely fourth-stringer (he ended up at Connecticut, and would exact his revenge on the Irish in his final year, on ND’s senior day and in Weis’ last game before being fired).

Weis did not publicly name a starter for the opener against Georgia Tech in ‘07, but the rumors in the days leading up to the first game were that Jones had won the job, and that Weis had even implemented some semblance of a spread offense in the week leading up to the game, to take advantage of Jones’ mobility.

Yellow Jackets Sting the Shit Out of ND

Fortunately for Jones, the rumors were true, and he indeed started the season opener on September 1st, 2007, against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Unfortunately for Jones, and also for Notre Dame, he was not ready to compete against Georgia Tech, and neither were just about any of his teammates.

Jones fumbled twice in the one half of football he played, rushing for 28 yards on 12 carries while completing 1 of 3 passes for 4 yards. His offensive line was abysmal, and his ability to hold onto the football was similarly not great. The only two drives ND had with Jones on the field that didn’t go three-and-out were both ended by his fumbles.

Georgia Tech v Notre Dame Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He was replaced at half time (with the score 16-0 and Notre Dame having only managed five total first downs) by Evan Sharpley, who finished the game 10/13 for 92 yards before Jimmy Clausen was given a shot in complete garbage time (he went 4/6 for 34 yards). Jones would never see another minute of action in an Irish uniform.

While the ND QB carousel spun recklessly, Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice eviscerated the inept Irish defense, running for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets won the game 33-3, and kicked off what would easily be one of the worst football seasons in Notre Dame fans’ lives.

The Aftermath of Jones’ Benching

The story gets especially strange at this point. Up until now, Jones was just an over-hyped recruit who wasn’t able to carry a terrible team to any sort of success in his first appearance. We’ve seen that movie before, and oftentimes those guys even end up redeeming themselves later in their careers.

But in the third game of the season (after Clausen played the entire game in a 31-10 loss at Penn State), ND traveled to Ann Arbor to take on get beat down 38-0 by Mike Hart and the Michigan Wolverines. When it came time for a team meal and then the bus departure on Friday, Demetrius Jones was nowhere to be found.

The sophomore QB simply did not show up, and rumors began to swirl as to what was going on with the former Parade All-American. Soon after Jones’ disappearance from the team, news reports came out claiming Jones had enrolled at Northern Illinois and intended to play football there the following season.

Our very own Joshua Vowles blogged about an interaction with Jones at the Michigan State game the following weekend, when Jones was in the stands supporting his team and apparently very concerned with being interviewed by sideline reporter Alex Flanagan. Jones definitely felt like he got the short end of the stick with his quick benching, and it was clear he wasn’t long for ND based on what was happening and how he was reacting to it all.

As the reports came in that Jones would go to NIU, those plans hit a speed bump when Notre Dame refused to release Jones from his scholarship. Eventually the program relented and assisted Jones in finding his next college home — helping him enroll at Cincinnati and play for the up-and-coming head coach there (some guy named Brian Kelly).

Demetrius Jones’ Strange Career Post-ND

Once he settled into Cincinnati, Jones competed for the starting QB job, but failed to unseat Tony Pike, who had considerable success for Brian Kelly at Cincy before spending some time in the NFL. Jones wanted to get on the field, and with Kelly’s tendency for depth chart engineering, Jones and all his athleticism ended up at linebacker for the Bearcats.

Jones played moderately well in his time there for two seasons, collecting 38 tackles and an interception and enjoying his strong contributing role on the undefeated 2009 Bearcats team that earned Kelly the Fighting Irish gig he holds today. He left Cincinnati when Kelly departed for Notre Dame, not even waiting to see how he fit into the 4-3 defensive scheme Butch Jones’ staff was bringing to the program.

Jones ended up finishing his college career at a Division II school in Ohio, Central State University. He changed positions again, playing wide receiver and tight end and putting up a solid 41-catch, 410-yard, 2-touchdown stat line. He also dabbled in QB a bit there, completing 14 of 23 passes for 178 yards.

After college, Jones ended up signing with the Kane County Dawgs of the Continental Indoor Football League in 2013, but the team folded just a game into his career there.

In 2016, Jones was a quarterback on the Chicago Blitz of American Indoor Football (AIF), and was the starter and a playmaker for the Blitz until an injury forced his backup into action. In the first game of the year — before the injury — Jones completed 10 of 24 passes for 133 yards and 2 TD, and rushed 5 times for 41 yards and an additional score. He was referred to in the Blitz’s recap of that first game as one of the team’s most important players:

Blitz quarterback Demetrius Jones’ improvement throughout the game was the catalyst in getting the Chicago offense clicking, and he was named Offensive Player of the Game for his efforts. Jones had this to say about how the offensive game plan was working, “Once we found some rhythm with the passes everything else began to fall into place.” When asked how his offensive group overcame the early struggles Jones explained “We had some guys making some great catches on some bad balls putting us in better position.”

Unfortunately for Jones, the AIF folded in the summer of 2016, and the owner of the Chicago Blitz put the team up for sale. This is where Demetrius Jones’ and the Chicago Blitz’s Wikipedia pages end, for those of you following along at home.

Jones (left) was last seen as the starting QB for the Chicago Blitz of American Indoor Football
Screenshot of ChicagoBlitzFootball.com/offense.html

But Where is Demetrius Now?

Excellent question.

After some extensive (read: a few minutes) searching via Google, I was unable to pinpoint Demetrius Jones’ current activities or location. My patented LinkedIn search that I’ve used to find Irish legends like Tom Kopko in post-ND-sports life yielded no helpful results. If anyone has any insider information on this former Irish QB and the next step in his up-and-down football career, I think we would all love to hear it.

No matter where Demetrius is, he is now inextricably tied to Notre Dame football’s worst season and to a game that everyone, and especially he, would like to forget. The strange journey his career took after that is anything but normal, and shows just how much of an impact one performance can have on an athlete’s entire career. Demetrius Jones bounced around to multiple other college teams and has since failed to find a reliable home in the different second-rate pro football leagues he’s tried to make a mark in, never catching a break as his teams/leagues continue to fold just when he starts to get something going.

Demetrius, I hope you’re doing well, and I wish you the best in whatever you’re currently doing. It sucks we didn’t get to see you perform a few more times and for a few better teams at Notre Dame, but I hope you land in a long-term, stable situation soon and show some of that promise that was so evident when you arrived in South Bend in 2006.

Notre Dame Football's 2007 Legacy

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Posted by One Foot Down - For Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans on Wednesday, July 26, 2017