Sport - NCAA
Perris Jones seizes long-awaited opportunity and runs with it
September 9th, 4:29 AM EDT
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- All Perris Jones ever needed was an opportunity and in his first collegiate start the former walk-on showed why.
"I think that this staff has just presented really a mindset if you work for it and you're that guy that's performing to the best or to the standard rather, then you'll be a guy that plays," fifth-year senior running back Perris Jones said after practice on Tuesday.
Jones finished with 104 yards rushing with two total touchdowns in Virginia's season-opener against Richmond, the first UVA running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Jordan Ellis in the 2018 Belk Bowl.
"Really doesn't matter whether you're a walk-on or whether you're a scholarship guy," UVA head coach Tony Elliott said, "It's all about performance, and it's all about seizing your opportunity and taking advantages of your opportunity."
It is the same opportunity Perris and his family talked about since he was a little kid growing up in a military family.
"Ever since he was a little boy I told him you're going to be playing D-I football," Perris' mom Joanna Jones said, "If given the opportunity he was going to just be one of those players, you could put a truck on his back and he'll pull it."
But after starring at Episcopal in Northern Virginia, Jones was left with few chances after a spot at Yale fell through. Until his dad got email back from then UVA defensive coordinator Nick Howell.
"When they responded, the messaging that Coach Howell said essentially was 'he doesn't really fit what we're doing, what can you tell me that separates him?" Perris' dad Stevie Jones Jr. said, "I just simply remember telling Coach Howell, I will assure you this give him an opportunity, you won't be disappointed."
"Coach Howell, he told me, I remember that my senior year, he said you're a hard working kid and you're going to get what you work for and that's something that's stuck with me and still stands with me today," Perris said, "You get what you work for in life, so putting in the work and you'll reap the rewards."
Nothing with the Cavaliers has been easy for Jones. Coming in as a walk-on and earning a reputation as a special teams standout among teammates, then earning a scholarship as a sophomore and then briefly switching positions to cornerback.
"My dad preached to me from a young age, when somebody asks you what position you play, you say you're a football player," Perris said, "You play whatever is required, anything."
During his early years at Virginia, Perris and his family always made sure he was outworking the competition, a mindset which started early in life.
"We used to make him run before the games, so he could get up a nice sweat," Joanna said, "We used to make him move wood piles from one side of the yard to the other because we saw something in him that was different."
All the adversity and work led to the opportunity against Richmond. As Jones became the first UVA running back in 30 years to rush for 100 yards in his first career start.
"All of the intangibles are what he's shown. He's a great young man, first and foremost," Elliott said, "He's fully committed to being the best at everything that he does. He's a team guy. It never was about him, and you can see that he has a great appreciation for an opportunity, and he took advantage of it."
Jones shared before taking the field for his first career start, he shared a moment with a former teammate about the journey to take an opportunity and turn it into a moment.
"So coming to work everyday, I like to be an example and tell those guys that you don't have to be just a practice dummy," Jones said, "If you want to play you can earn it, you can earn that right if you put in the work."