Bama's Jones brothers spend break on mission trip
By JOHN ZENOR
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Barrett and Harrison Jones didn't head to the beach for spring break.
The two brothers and Alabama teammates instead spent five days last week in Jinotega, Nicaragua, before returning to the practice fields to resume working on new roles with the defending national champions.
They spent a day playing soccer and baseball and sharing their Christian faith at an orphanage, held nightly revivals and spoke at schools. Sitting poolside wasn't on the agenda.
"People come up to me and say, `Man, that's awesome that you gave up your spring break,'" said Barrett Jones, the Crimson Tide's Outland Trophy-winning offensive lineman. "I don't think about it that way. To me it's just so much more rewarding and so much more of an eternal impact to go on these kinds of trips than to go to the beach.
"I always tell people I have been to the beach 50 times and I don't really remember one time going to the beach. I just kind of remember going and sitting in the sand and sitting at the pool and doing it again the next day. But when you do a thing like this, it really makes an impact on your life. And you remember it forever. I think I'll remember every day and a lot of faces and a lot of people that I met."
Barrett Jones had been to Haiti the past two spring breaks. This time he organized the trip for the 31-person group, flying into Managua and then taking a four-hour bus ride to Jinotega in north central Nicaragua.
Harrison Jones, who plays tight end, said it was a rewarding trip but Monday meant time to get back to football and school.
"I think you've just got to take the things you saw down there, not only keep praying for the kids and for the country, but take the lessons you learned as well," he said. "And just be grateful for what you have. And come out here and get to work because, ultimately, that's my job right now."
Such mission trips are one reason why coach Nick Saban praises the Jones brothers, calling them "about as fine a young men as you're ever going to be around."
Pretty good football players, too.
Harrison could see substantially more playing time with the departure of Brad Smelley, but his big brother has an even bigger transition. Even after being named the nation's top interior lineman last season, Barrett Jones is shifting two spots over to replace center William Vlachos for his senior season.
The 6-foot-5 lineman has dropped down to 300 pounds after being listed at 311 last season. Sophomore Cyrus Kouandjio, one of last season's top recruits nationally, is expected to take over at left tackle.
The biggest challenge?
"Just snapping the ball and blocking," Barrett Jones said. "It sounds simple but it takes a while to get into that rhythm. You're not used to that. You're used to the whole time just worrying about what you're doing. It's not quite second nature to me when you have to snap it, but I'll get there."
He said offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland talked to him about the move after the national championship game in January. Jones said it was a no-brainer despite his success in his first season as Alabama's left tackle.
"It's not really about that," he said. "It's about us winning. If that's the best way for us to win, then I'm going to play center."
Updated March 21, 2012