New Niles coach Antwon Jones spoke to the Niles Rotary Club Monday afternoon. (Daily Star Photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Archived Story

Jones intends to build Niles program

Published 6:50pm Monday, August 20, 2012

Antwon Jones didn’t just come to Niles to coach football.

He told the Rotary Club that he came to build a program and change a culture at its weekly noon meeting at the Riverfront Cafe Monday.

Jones talked about building character in his players and turning them into men. He wants them to concentrate on their academics as well as their playbooks and if they do that, he knows they will be not only good football players, but good people as well.

“What we are trying to build is not only a football player, but a student-athlete and helping them with that transition from a young man into a man,” he said.

One of the first things Jones established was a mandatory study table to help them not only maintain their grades, but improve them.

“It’s not about using kids to just win football games, it’s about giving kids a bridge to the next step of their lives.”

Jones came to Niles from South Bend Washington, which he led to the state finals last season. He is a 1995 graduate of Piqua High School in Ohio and a 2000 graduate of Notre Dame where he played under Lou Holtz.

After graduating from Notre Dame, he joined the South Bend Police Department where he is still employed. His high school coaching career began in 2001 as a volunteer assistant at St. Joseph’s High School across from Notre Dame.

He coached two years of defensive line at South Bend Adams before taking over the program at South Bend Washington. Washington was 0-10 the year before he arrived and went 7-3 his first season.

In 2011, the Panthers won their first section title since 1977 and the school’s first regional and semistate titles.

Jones talked about changing the culture of Niles football. Having grown up in a small Ohio community, he knows first-hand how much a successful football program can be.

“There is a different sense of pride when a football team is successful,” he said. “There is nothing more special than Friday night lights in a small town.”

But Jones doesn’t want his players just taking from the community. He also wants them to give back. In fact, he asked the Rotary Club if there were any projects it was planning that his team could lend a hand.

The Vikings open the 2012 season on the road at Gull Lake Friday night. Niles’ home opener will be Aug. 30 against Coldwater.

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