Coach’s visit inspires Panthers
I was walking into the entrance to Panther Stadium near the football fieldhouse Friday when I heard someone call my name.
I turned around and there was coach Marc Jones.
Like many around Siloam Springs, including a lot of Siloam Springs football players, it had been quite a while since I’ve seen Jones — the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and still a member of the Siloam Springs football coaching staff.
This past March, Jones suffered a massive stroke and since then, he’s been in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities in both the central and northwest parts of the state.
After several long months of rehab, Jones is back in Northwest Arkansas now and on Friday night, he came out to see the Panthers play Rogers in their season opener.
After Jones got my attention Friday, I went over and visited with him and his wife for several minutes.
Jones was standing by the passenger side of his vehicle, but there was a wheelchair there as well for him to use if needed.
He’s lost a considerable amount of weight, and one side of his face and body appears to still be struggling with the effects of the stroke.
In all honesty, Jones admits, he is lucky to be alive.
Jones was very emotional in our conversation, telling me how happy he was to get to see the kids he’s coached for the last several years. They’re great kids who work hard and deserve to have something good happen for them, he said.
Jones got to speak to the team recently and saw a few of the Panthers prior to their game against Rogers.
“Of course, it was pretty emotional and everything,” said Siloam Springs head coach Bryan Ross. “Marc is a unique guy. He loves the game of football and loves coaching it.”
As Friday’s game started, Jones was seated in his wheelchair down near the giant football helmet and several Panthers went and shook his hand prior to taking the field.
No doubt, his presence gave the Panthers a lift as they took on the Mounties on Friday.
Jones said he doesn’t know if he’s going to wake up each morning. There are no guarantees. And he certainly isn’t taking anything for granted.
“If I ever get the chance to coach again,” Jones said fighting back tears, “I’m going to be the best coach I’ve ever been.”
Ross said he believes Jones wants to coach again at Siloam Springs.
“I think he really wants to get back at some point,” Ross said. “Hopefully, he can. He’s certainly an inspiration in a lot of ways. He just talked to the kids about doing your best and not taking anything for granted, enjoying the opportunity that you get in playing football.”
The Panthers weren’t able to finish the job Friday as Rogers rallied to win 34-33. But they looked like a team that’s much improved across the board — certainly one that Marc Jones would be proud of.
— Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.