The call came in a little late from the sidelines but like he does on the football field, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones made it work with a little improvisation and a lot of heart.
“We cut it right down to the wire,” says Shawn Voelker, who helped him pull it off. “I picked it up from Frame & Save in Florence and got it to him at about 10:30, 11 on the morning of the 10th.”
Aug. 10 was Bengals president Mike Brown’s 82nd birthday and his 50th with the franchise he helped start with his father Paul Brown. He’s had Super Bowls and Pro Bowls and division titles in both the AFC Central and North besting the dreaded Steelers. But Mike Brown never got a gift like this. Not from a current player.
A sketch of Mike and Paul together watching practice.
Jones, who has turned around his life and career during eight seasons with the Bengals that have had trying moments, wanted to give him something for his birthday. Not just a gift, though. Bengals training camp opened last month with Jones emotionally recounting how much Brown’s support has meant to him through the good and the bad and he wanted Voelker to convey it.
Voelker, a Northern Kentucky artist and Bengals fan who loves to draw players, had already teamed up with the Jones’ family for “a surprise piece.” Just last year Jones’ wife, Tish, commissioned Voelker to sketch a scene of an Adam interception fresh from the 2016 season. On Sept. 8 from 6-9 p.m. at the Lexus River Center he’ll display his best of Bengaldom in honor of the Sept. 10 opener.
“Photos are one thing, but when you’ve got someone who puts their time and energy into it, it comes from basically their heart. I try to convey that emotional feeling,” Voelker says. “(Jones) stressed to me how important that it was to him. To make this a special piece. Just by him conveying that let me know it had to be something special from the heart.
“We all know Mike has been in the corner of a lot of these guys,” Voelker says. “Everyone has ups and downs in their lives … Mike seems to know guys are going to have ups and downs. It’s just human nature. It’s good to have somebody in your corner like that.”
It was a quick collaboration. Voelker and Jones on the phone. Tish in the background. Jones wanted Paul somewhere in there and the three decided a scene of them together would be just right. When Voelker sent Jones the photo he found on the internet, “Pac was all over it.” Voelker started it Monday, finished Wednesday, delivered it Thursday.
“It’s a rather well-known photo,” Voelker says of a picture believed to be taken in the ‘80s. “There are two photos out there that are very similar. It’s a little different angle. I chose the one where they’re looking out into the distance. It looks a little bit more legendary.”
Last year on his own Voelker dabbled in the legend when he drew Paul Brown standing on the field in the rain and dropped it off at Paul Brown Stadium for Mike, a guy he’s never met. Soon there came an e-mail from the corner office conveying his appreciation. When he drew them together, he added the 50 season logo and the human touches.
“It’s OK to have little mistakes, little flaws, a little showing of the brush lines,” Voelker says. “That’s OK. It conveys the feelings that much more.”
A nice touch. Mike Brown seems to realize that everyone’s story involves flaws. In return Jones received one of Brown’s famous handwritten thank you notes. He wouldn’t divulge the contents, but it looks like he’ll be making a trip to Florence, too.
“It’s sweet,” Jones says. “I’m going to frame it.”