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Nice catch in bottom of the fifth

Posted Sep 2, 2012


Marvin Jones

Kevin Daft, who coached Marvin Lewis Jones Jr., at the University of California, has moved on to Cal-Davis but he's already recruiting Marvin Lewis Jones III.

"Little Marv's going to be great receiver, too. Look at his hands. They're big like Marv's," Daft says. "He's got the bloodlines."

While he's raising Little Marv, Big Marv looks like he's a worthy descendant in the line of Bengals big-play receivers that moved from the West Coast, starting with Isaac Curtis to Darnay Scott running through Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Have the Bengals found A.J. Green's future running mate as the team's No. 2 receiver? If not by next year, then maybe by Halloween, when Big Marv's youngest, Mareon, turns one?

Why not? The Bengals traded a brand for a name when they took Jones with the 166th pick in the fifth round, one of the the picks they got from the Patriots for Johnson.

"Once you have children and see it from a different perspective, it keeps you grounded," Big Marv says. "It gives you a little incentive. They keep you going. That's what they do for me. Every time I'm out there sweating, about to fall, I think of them as motivation."

After a rookie preseason he's seamlessly moved from the fifth round into making enough plays downfield that he averaged 16.7 yards per his nine catches against backups, Jones has put his middle-age mindset on display.

"Marv's mature beyond his years," Daft says. "Very humble. He's always been that way ... we probably talk once a week. He's a guy I'll talk to the rest of my life."

Big Marv began life catching things. Literally, according to the First Marv, Marvin Lewis Jones Sr., his father, says as his son checked out his surroundings he grabbed one of the suction tubes and held on with those huge hands.

"I've never forgotten that," the First Marv says.

Big Marv never shied away from the stage, either. As he grew up in the church, he took to gospel and he apparently has a Pro Bowl voice.

"Oh yes. He can sing and he sings a little bit of everything," the First Marv says. "He can do a little rap, too. He's been blessed. I've told him all along, 'Stay humble. People don't want to hear all about what you're doing.' "

The First Marv is the guy that told Big Marv everything was going to be all right back when Big Marv called home stunned during the first week of training camp his freshman year at Cal. He had just found out his girlfriend of two years, Jasmine, was pregnant and he thought football and the dream were over.

"He knew he had a responsibility. I told him it was time to grow up, be a man, and that I'd support him," the First Marv says. "He's got my name. I'm not going to turn my back on him."

The First Marv, a sheriff for Orange County for nearly 20 years near their hometown of Fontana, Calif., as well as a pastor, is the kind of guy that looks for solutions instead of blame and helped his son see he could still have his dream as well as deliver on his responsibility as a father.

"We helped out on weekends those first couple of years along with Jasmine's parents," The First Marv says. "It was all about communication."

Daft is amazed by what he's seen since. After Jones had one catch that true freshman season, he kept getting better and better. His junior season, the last year Daft coached him, he averaged 15.3 yards per his 50 catches and not only caught four touchdown passes, but ran a reverse 48 yards for a touchdown against UCLA. That Halloween, Daft took his kids trick or treating with Big Marv and Little Marv.

"Little Marv was Buzz Lightyear. Big Toy Story fan," Daft says. "Think about what he's done. He had a great career at Cal while keeping his life together and dealing with it the way a man should with Jasmine, who's been very supportive. He does all that leading up to the combine and he's already acting like a 28-year-old father doing right by kids."

How Jones came out of that combine a fifth-rounder is anyone's guess. He's a rangy 6-2, is both fast and quick, and is so bright that he lined up at both outside spots at his first NFL practice. Plus, he has what everyone is seeking with an ability to get behind people. Not only that, he heaved 225 pounds 22 times, tying for the lead in the receiver group.

No, he hasn't done it against first-teamers. But Daft says it's only a matter of time.

Taken in the fifth round himself by the Titans in 1999, Daft knocked around four NFL training camps while setting the NFL Europe record for career TD passes and knows what pro receivers should look like. Jones is one, he says, but knows catching 62 balls for just three TDs his senior year probably didn't help.

Daft thought Jones would go higher and, in fact, got a call from a team saying it was going to take Jones in the fourth round.

"You know how that goes; the draft is the draft," Daft says. "I think back to the way we used him and we could have thrown him the ball more. But a lot of it is the system you're in. If he'd been at Oklahoma or Texas Tech with those wide-open offenses, he would have easily caught 80 to 100 balls.

"I think the sky's the limit for Marv. He's very intelligent, he understands the game. The one thing that separates him from everybody else is he cares and has a passion and has a heart. He's a tireless worker. I don't know how he does it, but he never gets tired. His 60th snap is as efficient as his first. He's got a hunger to go up and get the ball. He's got a knack for making plays down the field and contorting his body to make some unbelievable circus catches.

"He's going to make it hard for the coaches not to play him."

He already is. After wowing the training camp crowd with some of those catches, more often than not Jasmine waited for him with the kids so they could visit while walking off the field before the next meeting and a night away from the family in the hotel.

"We've been together since my junior year and her senior year in high school and I know that doesn't happen often," Jones says. "It was hard the first couple of years (in college) because they'd come up for home games but they didn't come up and stay with me until my junior and senior years. That made it a lot easier. It made me more grounded and me not doing everything the average college student did. The way I've grown up, it's all about family. I never saw myself not taking my responsibility.

"I'm not encouraging people to start very young. I know it's unconventional. But at the same time, I handle responsibilities. I'm at the point in my life where it could happen."

No reality show receiver here.

"They're my reality," he says.

It starts with the First Marv. Daft saw where the tireless work ethic comes from when he met Marvin Lewis Jones Sr., during the recruiting trips and learned he has worked his share of graveyard shifts.

His father died before he started making the big decisions and the First Marv feels he made a bad one as a high school senior when he turned down a football recruiting trip to Boise State to participate in California's state wrestling tournament, and he never got a shot to play in college.

"I didn't have a father to guide me at that point and that's something I think about," the First Marv says. "I want to be there for my kids when I'm needed. Right now, the most important thing to me is that he's my friend. I can talk to him. I can open my heart to him. We can laugh and I can tell him I hurt. It makes me a better person and father."

He's also keeping tabs on Big Marv's sister, Vanessa, a sophomore at USC who is a top 400-meter runner.

"I'm getting ready for Rio," the First Marv says of the 2016 Olympics.

That family name is everything to him even if it's not the real one. He was born in St. Louis, so his parents named him Marvin Louis Jones, but he didn't realize that until he had put "Lewis" on too many important documents.

Lewis it has stayed. And he's hoping it stays as plain and simple. He's pretty sure Big Marv won't be pointing to the back of his jersey.

"Stay humble," the First Marv says.

Little Marv is already making sure of that.

 

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