Years ago, my husband, Coach Tim Green, was sitting in his office when he heard a knock on his door. Looking up, he saw a small young freshman who had recently completed the opening football competition known as The Night of Champions and had finished in last place. Recognizing the frustration in the young man’s face and suspecting that he had come to say that he was going to quit football, Coach Green patiently waved him into his office and offered him a chair, hoping to convince him to stay. Instead of quitting, though, the freshman had come to see Coach Green to find out what he needed to do to get better, explaining that he was embarrassed by his performance at the recent competition. For the next few minutes, Coach Green outlined the simple but basic plan of the importance of nutrition while also explaining the level of commitment needed for the workouts as well. Flash forward to his senior year, the same young man walked up to Coach Green at the team meal after winning the State Championship game. He had not only improved enough to place in the top four at The Night of Champions that year but he was a starter on this historic 15-0 team. As he approached Coach Green, he held up a coke and smiled,
“Hey coach, you know what this is?”
Coach Green looked up and answered, “A Coke?”
The young man smiled and proudly answered, “It is the first Coke I’ve had since we met that day in your office.”
This is the kind of dedication and commitment that my husband, Coach Green, and I have known from this young man for years and I am so happy to introduce Matt Jones as the next recipient of The People of The Ville.
Matt and his wife Jill are both from Rome, Georgia but didn’t meet until after college. They have a one-year-old son, Preston, and a small dog named Lucy. Matt describes his family as his “rock” and his wife Jill as an “incredibly supportive coaches wife.” He later went on to say,
“She knows what football means to a community and what it means to me, you cannot be a successful coach without a wife that it is firmly in your corner!”
Matt, or Coach Jones, has been coaching high school football for 17 years now, starting back when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Georgia. He has been the head coach for Kentucky Country Day School here in Louisville for the past 7 years and is now the winningest football coach in school history and was named both the District Coach of the Year and the State Coach of the Year for football this past season. When I asked him who inspired him to coach and teach, he answered,
“The influence that all my coaches had on my life inspired me to be a coach. I started playing as many sports as I could play beginning with football in the 2nd grade and was fortunate to have so many good experiences along the way. I played basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, football, swimming, gymnastics, archery which may include a bowstring, and others and always seemed to find a good influence in each one. I was a child of divorce, single-parent home, and needed structure, direction, love, and guidance from authority figures. I also realized at a young age that I needed to seek out people that were happy and content and try to do what they were doing as a career if I could. Fortunately, coaching came naturally to me and my coaches were always some of the happiest men I knew.”
He goes on to describe some of these coaches:
“After 1997, my high school coaches were and remain the most influential men in my life. I keep up with almost all of them to this day, nearly 20 years later. They were more than coaches to me, they were Father Figures and men that I could model myself after personally and professionally. Jerry Sharp, Mike Carswell, Tim Green, and Tommy Atha are some of the finest husbands, fathers, and men of character that I have ever known. They influence me to this day and I take a tremendous amount of advice from all of them. Another person that is a great influence in my life is Mitch Jordan. Mitch and I coached together at Darlington from 2004-2007 and I talk to him every day. I value his opinion and guidance as a man, a husband and father, and as a coach.
Influences on Coach Jones were not limited to just coaches, though. He describes his late grandfather, Wade Hoyt Jr. in this way:
“He was the most influential man in my life until he passed away when I was only 15 years old. He was a man of unquestioned character and unconditional love, truly special, a throwback to a different generation. He was an attorney in Rome and always reminded me of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.”
He also gives credit to his mother:
“My mom, Beth Paulson, is the final major influence in my life. She raised me and my 2 sisters as a single parent and her unconditional love, wise advice, and constant shoulder to lean on were, and remain to a certain extent, our rock of stability. She is an incredible person and a winner.”
Sitting down with Coach Jones is always a pleasure. Here are a few other questions I had for him:
If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
“I wish that I would’ve had or known more about small college options to play football. When I graduated High School in 1999, it seemed that there were very few small colleges playing football and even fewer out recruiting actively. Today, I have 15-20 smaller schools, looking for less talented or undersized kids that love the game, come through my office each December. Back then, I do not remember seeing any! While I had a great experience in Athens as an undergraduate and even got my start in coaching there, it would have been nice to have played football at the next level, or to have had an option to!”
Currently, my newest writing project is about the 1998 Tiger football team. Can you tell me about what it was like to be on that team?
“The 1998 Darlington Tiger football team was truly special. It was a true team in every sense of the word. Unselfish, led impeccably by our coaches, team chemistry all over the field, and a group that just absolutely loved to play the game of football. Most of us had been together for years as friends and teammates, which added to the experience. A group of young men that achieved something as a group that our individual talents alone could never have. It was a special time and a special place. That magic formula has not, and probably will never, happen again.”
What is your favorite memory of that year?
“My favorite memory from the 1998 season was taking the field at Lincoln Co. for the State Championship game. I still get goosebumps thinking about the crowd, the atmosphere, the stakes, and the overall energy there. Another great memory was arriving at the now-demolished Georgia Dome on our charter bus and walking through the tunnel to the big garage door and having it open to the field of play—I had never even walked on AstroTurf before, much less been at Field Level in a Dome that sat 75,000 people! What an experience, since we were the first game of the day, we had about 45 minutes to just walk around the field, take pictures, and enjoy it.”
You recently won District and State Coach of the Year. Tell us about this past year’s team.
“The 2017 KCD Football team was an outstanding group of talented players that had been looking forward to their Senior season for 5 years and even longer in some cases. We knew that we would be good, and it was a great ride to coach the young men on this year’s team through the season. They were unselfish, passionate about the game, and very talented guys as well. We were led by 13 committed Seniors, a huge number for a Class A Team. Our assistant coaches, Ed Long, Dylan Sims, Arthur Pollard, Cam Sample, Chris Radford, and Tim Green were also a special group—they worked very hard all season and we were always prepared to play. There are no honors and accolades for the coach without excellent, committed football players and parents to work with!”
What do you like most about Louisville?
“Louisville is an awesome place to live. There are so many ‘big city’ advantages to the city, yet it is easy to get around, everything is relatively close, and the people here are so warm and friendly. Jill and I have met many, many people that we call some of our best friends. We live in a great neighborhood that is only 4 miles from KCD and we try to take advantage of the city’s entertainment, dining, and sports options as much as we can. We are learning that Louisville is also a truly great place to raise kids and Preston is going to be lucky to grow up here going to and spending time at Kentucky Kingdom, The Zoo, and so many other cool places just minutes away from home.”
This is the last thing…tell me something you want us to know about you that we haven’t already covered above.
“I just think that young people today should truly want to pay their dues and earn everything that they get. My Dad always said: “If you think there is nothing to do at work, grab a broom and start sweeping.’ I have been fortunate to have had a lot of success by living off this advice. When I started coaching at Cedar Shoals I filmed practices, washed jerseys, weighed players in and out of Summer 2-a-days, dubbed highlight films, and anything else that needed to be done. When you are on the bottom of the totem pole, which we all will be at some point, the best thing to do is to put your head down and learn and work. At Darlington in 2004, I was hired to be a football assistant, do dorm duty, and be a middle school lacrosse coach. I was given a small apartment on campus, meals in the cafeteria, and $4500 per year ($175 every 2 weeks). It did not matter to me, it was about the experience that I could gain and the hard work that I could do. When you are 22 years old, the experience outweighs anything else. I tell that story because I am proud of it and of the experience that I gained. When you earn it, it is more special and you can enjoy it.”
It was a great privilege to get a chance to highlight a hard-working and dedicated man like Coach Matt Jones. My latest book project is scheduled for release in the coming months and highlights him and his teammates from the 1998 team from Rome, Georgia. The character of Coach Jones is indicative of the entire team from that year. Congratulations to Matt Jones for being the latest People of The Ville honoree! He and his family are welcome assets to our community.