Unplugged: Former USU, NFL great Rulon Jones enjoys life in the great outdoors

Published: Saturday, July 5 2014 7:35 p.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, July 5 2014 7:45 p.m. MDT

Rulon's parents got divorced when he was in high school and, after living for a short time with his mother, Betty, who is now deceased, Jones returned to his Ogden Valley roots as a teenager. He became a multisport athlete at Weber High in Pleasant View, where he played football, basketball and participated in track and field before graduating in 1976.

But for this big outdoor enthusiast, football became his ticket to a big-time collegiate and pro career.

A STAR IS BORN

"I was lucky," Jones, who in his prime stretched a muscular 260 pounds over a long, lean 6-foot-6 frame, said of the way his gridiron career blossomed. "I remember I got there at Utah State and they threw me in as a freshman. I actually started as a freshman, and I really was uncoached. I only played a couple years in high school, but I broke my arm my first year so I really only had two years of high school football in high school.

"Then I got to college and they didn't really have a very good defensive line coach. And they threw me in there and I was getting my butt kicked; I was just getting killed. Plus I was light, I reported (to USU) at like 207 pounds — 6-6 and 207 pounds, yeah, I was skinny — and luckily they had a guy by the name of Rod Marinelli who was a grad assistant, and he got the D-line coaching job my junior year. And that guy made me — you know, he was amazing.

"For me, he was perfect for my personality," Jones said. "I was just so unmanaged, really. I came from a divorced family and was just undisciplined and had no coaching. So he helped me not only my personality but my football. He'd been a drill sergeant in Vietnam, and he just drilled you. And that's exactly what I needed. He just really pretty much molded me, and he really did a great job.

"It's luck; there's a lot of luck involved. I mean, you have to have the personality and the talent and all that, but you've gotta have that guidance, and for me, I had to have that coaching. He really did it for me."

Jones met the woman who would become his wife, the former Kathy Larsen of Logan, during their freshman year at Utah State, and they got married when they were just 19 years old.

After the Aggies endured losing seasons during his freshman (3-8) and sophomore (4-7) seasons, they went 7-4 in 1978 and 7-3 during his senior season of 1979. They also shared a pair of Pacific Coast Athletic Association titles during his last two years in Logan, going 4-1 in 1978 and 4-0 in '79 under head coach Bruce Snyder.

Jones was a two-time, first-team all-conference selection in 1978 and '79, led the team tackles in 1978, and was named the PCAA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-American by the Sporting News in 1979, when he was also selected a second-team All-American by the Newspaper Enterprise of America.

Jones represented the Aggies in both the East-West Shrine game and Senior Bowl in January 1980, and later that year he was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Broncos, who took him with the 42nd overall pick.

9 YEARS WITH BRONCOS

Jones spent his entire nine-year NFL career in Denver, where he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1986, was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1985 and '86) and helped lead the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in the 1986 and '87 seasons, losing to the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, respectively.

He retired from football following the 1988 season at the ripe old age of 30 after playing in 129 NFL games — he started in 99 of them — and piling up 52 1/2 official quarterback sacks, plus 21 more in his first two NFL seasons before sacks became an official statistic in 1982. He also had 10 fumble recoveries, three safeties and realized every D-lineman's dream by scoring a touchdown during the 1984 season.

"It's funny," Jones said. "(The late, great USU legend) Merlin Olsen asked me right after I retired. He said, you know, 'How ya doin?' And I said, 'Fine.' I was ready to retire. I had scoped my knee and it just didn't come around and I don't know, I felt like I was getting old.

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