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story.lead_photo.caption Highland Park quarterback John Stephen Jones (9) looks to pass against Temple during the first half of UIL Class 5A Division I state championship football game, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

It would be comical if not so sadly misinformed.

Some message boards and tweets have claimed that the only reason the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville gave John Stephen Jones a scholarship is because his grandfather is a billionaire who has donated millions and millions to his alma mater, the UA.

OK, the billionaire is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a native Arkansan who played on the Razorbacks' 1964 national championship team. If you are looking for nepotism, Jerry's son Stephen, John Stephen's dad, also played for the Razorbacks, but none of that is why the Razorbacks offered young Jones.

Arkansas head Coach Chad Morris had inside information on Jones and has seen him practice and play more than any coach in America, all legally because Morris' son Chandler was Jones' backup at Dallas Highland Park.

If anyone knows if Jones can run Morris' complicated offense it is Morris.

For the last two years, a friend would occasionally send yours truly clips from local Dallas newspapers with stories about Jones' success.

Here are Jones' numbers in leading Highland Park to back-to-back Texas Class 5A Division II state championships: As a senior Jones completed 242 of 336 passes for 4,186 yards, 53 touchdowns and had only 3 interceptions. As a junior he was 202 of 335, 3,017 yards, 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

That's a total of 444 of 671 for 7,203 yards, 83 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.

If his name wasn't Jones people might be planning on someday attending his induction into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Texas has eight classifications for high school football and 5A, where Highland Park competes, is the second highest. The second highest classification in Texas is like competing on the highest level in most states.

At 5-101/2, Jones wasn't a hot name around the country, but schools that like to air it out like Texas Tech and SMU had him high on their list.

All this young man needs is a chance to make his own mark.

. . .

One of the more interesting signings was Noah Gatlin, a 6-7, 285-pound offensive lineman from Jonesboro.

When Bret Bielema was fired in November, Texas and LSU tried to get Gatlin to make an official visit. He had already been recruited by Arizona State, Texas Tech, Virginia, Mississippi State and Iowa State to name a few.

Gatlin was also a respected baseball player, but from the time he was young most thought he would follow the family tree and play basketball.

His grandfather is Nelson Catalina, the former head basketball coach at Arkansas State who was a very competitive guard at Ouachita Baptist University. He is in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and serves on its board, so a minimum of four times a year for the last few years he would always be asked about his grandson.

He apparently surprised everyone by growing to 6-7, but not by his desire to play for the Razorbacks.

When he made his official visit to the UA, grandpa tagged along, too. It was Catalina's first visit to the UA since March 13, 1987, when he brought the ASU Red Wolves (Indians back then) to play Arkansas in an NIT game in Barnhill Arena.

ASU led by 21 in the second half but a short bench, fouls and the Razorbacks' pressure took its toll and the Hogs escaped 67-64 in overtime.

It was an electric environment and a great game that could have gone either way, but Catalina really had no previous reason to return to the UA campus -- he's a big part of the ASU and Jonesboro community -- but his real concern before going was that he didn't own anything with a Razorback on it.

Bet that's changed.


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Sports on 02/09/2018

Print Headline: Jones got offer on athletic merit, not name

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