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

"I think I was probably rehabbing too hard because I remember down in our ranch in Utah, I was chasing cows and it was swollen in my knee and I couldn't even hardly walk on a side hill. And then literally about two months later, I felt great again. And looking back, you know, they scoped it and I think I really was just rehabbing so hard, it just needed rest."

By then, though, the time had come for him to learn how to go back to being Rulon Jones the "normal person" again and not Rulon Jones "the football star." It was not an easy transition. For most pro athletes, it never is.

WALKING AWAY

"At first, before I got busy into the hunts, it was a little hard, honestly. That's kinda when it was a little funky to watch football," Jones admitted. "It's weird; they even have a name for it — post-football syndrome. Now you've heard so much about the brain injuries and all that. But the thing that I think more than anything is, you've been this thing — I even see it with missionaries — they're a missionary for two years, that's their identity. And then they go home and then they wonder, 'Who am I?' They have this identity for that amount of time.

"And then compound that it's so much longer for a football player. It's a little weird. You're just wondering 'Who am I? And luckily for me, I was a member of the (LDS) Church, and that helps give you some base, along with your family. But you look at the statistics — divorce, drugs, alcohol addiction, bankruptcy, all that — it's really pretty crazy.

"And then there's the adrenaline," he said. "I was talking to Merlin (Olsen) about that, and it's not just the adrenaline you miss but the emotion. Life is really, you know, you don't go up and down that much. But when you're playing football, literally you can be high one second and down the next. Just that, I think, that's a little addictive, too — the swing of emotion in your life. Even in the bad times, you're being evaluated every second and the emotion that causes, and you really kinda crave that after awhile.

"Like I say, it's the lows, too — one minute you're a hero, and the next minute you can be the goat. So it's really all of that. And then you get into your (regular) life and you don't have a lot of that stuff. I think that's a little hard for guys, too, and it was hard for me. That's why I didn't really watch football at first. It doesn't bother me now."

Because it was hard to watch football games on TV at first — seeing guys who were still playing that he had faced during his career — he got out of the habit of watching NFL games and doesn't keep close tabs on the league that much anymore, although he did watch the Broncos' disastrous defeat in this year's Super Bowl.

"That was painful," he said. "I try to keep track of the guys. John (Elway, Denver's star quarterback when Jones was playing for the Broncos) is in the front office, but I kinda lost track of a lot of the guys."

CONCUSSIONS, STEROIDS

Jones is well-aware of all the bad publicity that football and the NFL have received in recent years. Last year, the league agreed to pay untold millions to former players who have suffered the devastating, often tragic effects of concussions.

And more recently, one of Jones' contemporaries, former BYU and Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, was part of another lawsuit alleging the rampant and dangerous use of painkillers by NFL teams in the 1970s and '80s.

"I had a couple of concussions," Jones said. "The receivers and running backs get more of them, but I got a couple good dings in my career. You get upfield too far and you know a trap's coming and you turn and take a guy on head to head.

"I honestly don't know, with all the lawsuits and that, how football can continue, because it is really violent. And you know they're trying to do so many things to make the game safer, but you just can't. I don't see how you can protect yourself, really."

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