The East Ridge High School football program celebrated with its annual awards ceremony in the gym, Wednesday evening. At the end of the festivities, Johnny Jones Sr., a businessman with roots in our city, gave the football program even more to celebrate, as he presented a $100,000 check to the alumni association earmarked for a new weight room.
“I didn’t expect the kind words,” Jones said, after football coach Tim James lavished him with praise while introducing the man who made his fortune in the logistics and transportation field. “It does mean a lot to me having grown up in East Ridge.
“To be in a position to support coach James … he cares about you. He loves and supports you. I’m truly honored and blessed to support you.”
The $100,000 donation to the East Ridge Alumni and Supporters Association, is believed to be the largest gift from an individual in the history of the school. The money will be used to outfit the weight room in the 6,000-square-foot field house that is just getting under construction adjacent to Raymond James Stadium.
“I don’t know a better example of a gentleman who is an East Ridge guy,” James said of Jones, whose son played for the Pioneers in 2006-07. “He’s truly a hero of our community.”
Danny Gilbert, the president of the alumni association and an athletic legend in Pioneer country, noted that the existing weight room in the bowels of the original gymnasium is dated and claustrophobic.
“It’s so small you’ve got to go outside to change your mind,” Gilbert quipped. “I’ve been in education for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said of Jones’ generosity.
Jones’ check wasn’t the only one that the football program received on Wednesday. Coach James announced that the Pioneers are in line to be the beneficiary of $10,000 via the Tennessee Titans High School Football Grant.
James said the money will go toward pads and helmets to outfit the team in the coming years.
Prior to the check presentation, Coach James and his staff honored the athletes who distinguished themselves on the football field and in the classroom last fall.
Dino Sabic, he of the 4.0 grade point average, was presented the Academic Award. The young man also took home the Mack Franklin True Grit Award. “If you need me, I’m ready, whether that was on the offensive or defensive line,” James said of Sabic.
Jacob Short took home the Brian Burlsworth Character Award.
Cayden McCrary was recognized for his contributions to the team with the Underclassman Award.
Coach James said that Shane Alford “he epitomizes old school on the field more than anyone.” Alford received the Jim Steele Scrap Iron Award.
Dejuan Norris took home the Jim Starling “For the Love of the Game” Award. ” James likened Norris to “a colt with legs going everywhere” when he first joined the team. “He always has a smile on his face.”
The Coaches Award went to Deidrick Chambliss. James said that Chambliss “was a true example of grit and a winning attitude.”
Cameron Sanders was recognized with the Raymond James “True Pioneer Award.” James called Sanders “the heart and soul of our team.”
The Stump Martin Big Man Memorial Ward went to Chris Diaz.
Latrel Adair, Shane Alford, Cameron Sanders, Dejuan Norris, Dino Sabic, Desmon Drake, Chris Diaz, and Deldrick Chambliss were recognized for being named to the All-Region team.