This is the 15th in a series profiling Pulaski County high school football teams.
It wasn't the typical Wednesday of a game week for the Little Rock Catholic Rockets football team, with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his family on campus.
The private school, for boys only, dedicated its new multimillion dollar athletic and academic building Wednesday. The two-story building, located next to Roy Davis Field, is named the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Academic and Athletic Annex.
Jerry's sons Stephen and Jerry Jr. are graduates of Catholic High -- Stephen, 53, in 1983 and Jerry Jr., 47, in 1988. All three men were present at the dedication ceremony along with son-in-law Shy Anderson, a 1981 Catholic graduate who is married to Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer Charlotte Jones Anderson.
The 30,000-square-foot building -- part of Catholic's $15 million in capital improvements -- has three classrooms, four offices, a multipurpose room, varsity and junior varsity locker rooms, a weight room and an indoor practice facility that includes a 30-yard artificial turf field.
Catholic Principal Steve Straessle met with the Jones family about the new facility, and the family agreed to be a part of the project. Nabholz Construction was in charge of the project, which was completed in January.
"This is a triumph for the legacy of Catholic High and all of the lives that this great education of Catholic High has impacted," Jerry Jones said. "From a personal and family basis, it's such a privilege to get to do this kind of contribution.
"I don't see facilities here. I see hundreds and thousands of young men that will be inspired and can be inspired. They can understand the lessons you can get, which is helping the team, depending on each other and somebody depending on you. All of those manifest themselves in a facility like this. This one is powerful."
As for the 2017 Catholic football team that will get to use the facility, they're led by junior running back Samy Johnson, who rushed for 1,936 yards and 20 touchdowns on 211 carries last season. Johnson, who was named the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's All-Arkansas Preps Sophomore of the Year, won't be unknown to teams this season, Coach John Fogleman said.
"He's a marked man," Fogleman said.
Other key offensive players include senior running back Luke Schildknecht (six touchdowns in 2016) and senior tight end Adam Shepherd (nine touchdowns), who'll both have a new starting quarterback in senior Jake James. James takes over for Taylor Price, who has graduated.
Defensively, Fogleman said the Rockets will count on junior linebackers Nicolas Gonzales and Trevor Karther as well as senior defensive lineman Peter Fitz to help shore up a defense that allowed 40 points per game last season.
The Rockets play in one of the toughest conferences in the state, the 7A-Central, but Fogleman is concerned with Sylvan Hills on Friday first.
"It's game one," Fogleman said. "They beat us last year. They lost [quarterback Jordan] Washington, but they still got guys who can get you."
Sports on 08/31/2017
Rockets at a glance
COACH John Fogleman
2016 RECORD 3-8, 2-5 7A-Central
KEY RETURNERS RB Samy Johnson (Jr., 5-11, 179); RB Luke Schildknecht (Sr., 5-9, 195); TE Adam Shepherd (Sr., 6-4, 225); K Chris Elser (Sr., 5-9, 170)
Sept. 8;at Jacksonville
Sept. 15;at Jonesboro
Sept. 29;at Bryant*
Oct. 6;FS Northside*
Oct. 13;at North Little Rock*
Oct. 20;at FS Southside*
Nov. 2;LR Central*
*7A-Central Conference game
NOTE Catholic’s home games are at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Print Headline: Rockets get boost from Jones family