Ravens' Arthur Jones overcame injury, death of sister on path to NFL
It is Christmas Day, and Arthur and Jon Jones are slap-boxing again, two grown adults playfully bobbing, weaving and grappling in front of their parents and children. It was inevitable, really.
Days later, Arthur won't remember what was at stake. Maybe it was the remote control or the last piece of chicken. All the second-year Ravens defensive tackle knows is that, as usual, he got the best of his little brother, who happens to be one of the meanest men inside the Octagon.
Their mother, Camille, who has witnessed this bout a hundred times, said the youngest of the three Jones boys, Chandler, a junior defensive end at Syracuse, knew to stay out of the fray.
"They have grown up?" Camille said sarcastically. "They haven't stopped fighting. Jon has this thing where he always wants to challenge Arthur, just to test his strength. ... I don't want to hurt little Jonny's feelings, but he's still not as strong as Arthur. But he keeps trying."
Those brotherly brouhahas back in the day sparked a competitive fire that forged three athletes who are at or near the pinnacle of their respective sports: Arthur, a backup lineman for the 13-4 Ravens, who play the Patriots on Sunday for the AFC championship; Jon, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion; and Chandler, who recently announced he will skip his senior season at Syracuse, where he's a defensive end, to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
Through individual triumphs and family tragedies _ the death of their older sister and a fire at their home _ the brothers have formed a lasting bond. They have thrived thanks to their religion and strong faith in their family.
"Guys always ask why I smile so much," said Arthur, whose wide grin lights up the Ravens locker room. "I'm healthy. I've got a beautiful family. My parents are both still living. I have so much to be happy and proud about and to smile for. And I play for a great organization, so why not?"
An untimely injury
Like pretty much every player on the Ravens roster, Arthur's road to Baltimore had its hurdles.
Arthur garnered first-team All-Big East honors as a junior at Syracuse. He contemplated leaving for the NFL a year early. Camille urged him to enter the draft _ "Way down in my heart, I was thinking 'Please leave! Take the money! And run!'" she said _ but she left the decision to him.
He chose to stay in school so he could finish his degree and try to help the Orange get to a bowl game. He would also get a chance to play with Chandler, who would enroll at Syracuse in the fall.
Within a month of announcing he was staying at Syracuse, Arthur tore a pectoral muscle. The injury prevented him from working out for most of the offseason and still nagged him during the season.
About two months after he sustained the injury, an electrical fire started in the laundry room in his parents' home. The blaze was limited to one room, but the house and many of the family's belongings had smoke damage and the family dog died.
"Bishop was some type of mutt. My dad loved that dog. He took it hard," Arthur said.
In the weeks leading up to Arthur's senior season in 2009, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked him No. 12 on his Big Board (Kiper's list of the top 25 prospects in the nation), which was seven spots behind Ndamukong Suh, whom the Detroit Lions eventually drafted No. 2 overall in 2010.
But playing through an injury that wasn't fully healed, he saw his production dip. He totaled just 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks in nine games before a knee injury ended his season three games early.
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