Jones nets two more postseason TD's, gives region local product to cheer in Super Bowl

John Moorehouse • Jan 21, 2007 at 10:39 AM

From a national perspective, the New Orleans Saints' resurgent season was the top feel-good story in the sports world.

But with their loss on Sunday, this area gets a feel-good story of its own.

Thomas Jones will be representing Southwest Virginia - Big Stone Gap, in particular - in Super Bowl XLI when the Chicago Bears meet the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 4.

For those of you living under a rock, Jones scored two touchdowns during the Bears' 39-14 win over the Saints in Sunday's NFC championship game.

In the past three seasons covering Tennessee football, I've taken great pains not to paint the landscape of all things UT with an overwhelmingly positive brush.

Still, forgive me for taking some personal satisfaction from the Bears' pending presence in the Super Bowl.

You might say it's because it's the Bears who won the NFC title. After all, this reporter has been a fan since the Monsters of the Midway were laying waste to opposing offenses during the days that Walter Payton, Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were in the Windy City.

But folks around here could - and should - take a certain sense of pride for Jones, who has played an instrumental role in getting the Bears to the greatest stage in all of football, if not all of American sports.

For the second consecutive season, Jones gained more than 1,000 yards for the Bears - and remains the only back since "Sweetness" himself to do so for Chicago. Plus, during Chicago's overtime victory over Seattle in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, Jones broke up a potential interception by a Seahawks defensive lineman late in regulation in what might have been the play of the game.

ESPN's Gene Wojichowski wrote about how Cedric Benson deserved to start over Jones, but would Benson have made such a play in a similar scenario? I guess we will never know.

Folks around these parts remember Thomas Jones for other exploits. There are his heroics on the gridiron for Powell Valley, which became a statewide power in his time there and remained so when younger brother Julius became the tailback of choice.

There are the numbers he compiled while at the University of Virginia, where he became the Cavaliers' all-time leading rusher - breaking the record set by his immediate predecessor, Tiki Barber - and one of the most productive running backs in the all-time history of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Life at the professional level was not so easy, especially at first. Jones had a difficult stretch with the Arizona Cardinals, then spent a year with the Tampa Bay Bucs before signing on with the Bears.

During his stint at Virginia, which is also my alma mater, Jones told me that the Bears and Washington Redskins were his two favorite NFL teams as a kid. I can only imagine how he feels to reach the Super Bowl on the Bears' roster. Hopefully, I'll get an interview with Jones in the two-week lull between Sunday's games and the Super Bowl to relay his thoughts to you readers.

I know I'll be rooting for Jones and the Bears come Feb. 4. Anyone else who values the contributions of a local guy making waves on the national sports scene should be doing the same.

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