Marcus Jones has been a busy man since graduating from Southeast Whitfield in 2005.
It doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon.
Jones, 25, who is preparing for his first year as an assistant football coach and physics teacher at North Murray, recently signed with the Georgia Rampage. A member of the Ultimate Indoor Football League, the Rampage will play their 2013 home games at the trade center, and Jones was one of the first players signed by co-owner and general manager Kacee Smith.
A 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pound quarterback, Jones got his first taste of indoor football this year, playing with both the Chattanooga Generals (who folded after a few games) and the Columbus Lions. But the opportunity to teach and coach back home in Northwest Georgia was something he didn’t want to pass up, and commuting to Columbus for practices and games wasn’t a realistic option.
Making a connection with Smith was “an absolute blessing,” Jones said.
“I didn’t even know arena football was coming to Dalton until he told me,” said Jones, who is from Ringgold but transferred from Chattanooga’s Baylor School to Southeast before his senior year of high school. “And when he told me, I thought, perfect. I did want to play football, but I did find myself in a little bit of a jam — because the Columbus Lions are not near here, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do both.”
Smith, who graduated from Gordon Central in 2005, remembered Jones from their high school days and had kept an eye on reports on the former Raider’s career at Duke, where Jones played wide receiver and quarterback before settling in at linebacker for his final two seasons.
But Smith crossed paths with Jones again this summer during a semi-pro outdoor football game — Smith also owns the North Georgia Bulldogs, who were playing Jones’ team from the Atlanta area — and envisioned a successful future.
That was even more true when he saw video of Jones playing indoor football.
“Watching his arena film, he’s a much better arena quarterback than outdoor quarterback,” Smith said. “He looks really good arena-wise, which was shocking because he’s a really athletic quarterback. You usually see more pocket passers in arena ball.”
But Jones also has the quick release needed for success in the fast-paced indoor game, where holding on to the ball for more than three seconds is rarely a luxury. Even if pressured, Smith believes Jones’ combination of quickness and size will pay off.
“He’s a good enough athlete that he can always make something happen with his feet if it doesn’t develop,” Smith said.
No one will likely doubt Jones’ skills in that regard.
A three-sport standout in his brief time at Southeast — he also starred on the basketball court and baseball diamond for the Raiders — he played four seasons of football and one of baseball at Duke, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological anthropology and anatomy in 2009.
He dipped his toe back into baseball in hopes of catching on with a professional team, which he did, signing with the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent.
But after a year and a half in the club’s farm system, an injury led to his release last summer, so he went home to Ringgold and began taking classes at Chattanooga State to prepare for physical therapy school.
Yet football never completely left his system.
This spring, auditoning for a part as a player extra in the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” — which was filming in Chattanooga and Atlanta, among other locations — led to a different job on the USA Network television series “Necessary Roughness,” where he filmed extra scenes as the quarterback of the fictional pro football team featured on the show.
Other player extras were getting ready for the Canadian Football League draft and wondering why Jones wasn’t doing the same. Eventually, he was wondering why himself.
“It sparked my passion for the game again,” Jones said. “I never did my pro day or pursued professional football, so I thought I’d give it a go in the arena ranks and try to work my way up.”
The Rampage’s season won’t kick off until March, and Jones’ days until then will be packed with early-morning workouts at school as he balances teaching — he’s working on a provisional certificate until he can become certified to teach in Georgia — and coaching with his ambitions to play pro football.
And he’s looking forward to “entertaining” fans in Dalton who might remember him from just a few years back.
“This year is about really putting everything I have into the game and seeing what comes of it, from training all the way up to when the season starts,” Jones said. “How I produce will kind of give me a clear definition of whether or not this is the level I’m going to stay at or I can pursue it at a higher level.”
Smith will be glad to have Jones on his team, however long it lasts.
“It’s just kind of a really sweet deal to happen,” Smith said. “We were kind of needing him like he was needing us, and the moment I knew he was back in indoor football, I was coming after him, and when I knew he was coming back to the area, it was the perfect arrangement.”
Along with Jones, the Rampage signed former Virginia State University defensive lineman James Pratt (6-0, 285), but because they can invite 40 players to preseason camp, Smith still has plenty of work to do in filling out his roster.
This Sunday, the Rampage will hold open tryouts at James Brown Park, behind the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department’s John Davis Recreation Center at 904 Civic Drive. A $50 fee is required, and registration will begin at 1:30 p.m. before the tryouts at 2.
The workouts will include some basic combine-type activities (40-yard dash, shuttle drill, etc.) before breaking into groups for position drills.
The process is expected to last two to three hours.
Smith is eager to feature homegrown talent on the Rampage’s roster, and so he’s encouraging former high school and college players — or those athletes who think they can make the jump to a new sport — from the area to give indoor football a try.
“What I always tell people when they contact me about any level of football is that it’s a lot easier to attend the games knowing it didn’t happen than if they hadn’t tried out,” Smith said. “You never know.”
Marcus Jones has been a busy man since graduating from Southeast Whitfield in 2005.
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