BIG STONE GAP - Just about the best place to be to keep up with the Joneses in Big Stone Gap on Sunday was at a party at Mountain Empire Community College's Goodloe Center.
No matter the outcome of Sunday's Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts, Big Stone Gap favorite son Thomas Jones has a heap of cheerleaders on his side. Jones, the son of Thomas Jones Sr. and Betty Jones who now reside in the Powell Valley just outside town limits, is the starting tailback for the Bears.
Hopes were high for the former Powell Valley High School Vikings' gridiron star to do well no matter what on Sunday. But townsfolk are proud that one of their own was simply destined to be a part of it all.
"Today is a very proud moment," said Valley resident and Wise County Supervisor John Peace II. "I was talking to my grandpa about watching Thomas and Julius (Thomas Jones' younger brother, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys) play peanut football and then JV ball, then high school - oh golly, high school - and now clear to the Super Bowl. That's pretty hard to comprehend, watching a kid play peanut ball and now here he is in the Super Bowl."
Thomas Jones "came from a small town with a big goal, and he achieved it," said Big Stone Gap Mayor Barbara Ordnorff. Long before the opening kickoff, Orndorff figured the final score for everybody in Big Stone Gap and the Jones family in particular was major league victory.
Thomas Jones, she said, "has done amazing already."
Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Inc., was raffling off football jerseys at the town party honoring Thomas Jones. MEOC Cancer Center Director Leigh Ann Bolinskey said proceeds would go toward MEOC's emergency fuel fund. As can practically everybody else in town, Bolinskey remembers Thomas Jones back when.
"Thomas and I had some common friends. Sometimes we would play Nintendo. We just kind of hung out every now and then," she said. "He is a super nice guy. Always in a good mood, always smiling. Playing in the Super Bowl and what has happened for him in life, it couldn't happen to a better guy."
Pam Collins and several members of her family couldn't scrounge up a single Bears jersey in all of Wise County, so they applied the Big Stone Gap work ethic and made their own.
"They're just three dollar T-shirts, but we wanted to represent Thomas some way and this is our way," she said. "It's great. We're so excited. We can't wait for him to come home just for everybody to see him again. One-on-one, he is just as common and friendly as when he was living here. His whole family, they're just great people."