As part of the 2012 homecoming celebration at Utah State University, two former student-athletes are being honored as dignitaries. Paul Jones, along with his wife Sylvia, have been selected as Alumni of the Year, while Kevin Curtis will serve as Grand Marshal.
Jones, a former two-sport athlete, competed in football and track and field for the Aggies from 1981-84. Curtis spent two years as a wide receiver at Utah State (2001-02), following a two-year mission for the LDS Church and a two-year stint at Snow College.
Jones graduated from USU in 1986 with a degree in speech communications. He has spent the last 26 years in higher education and is now the interim president of Georgia College and State University.
“It’s rather humbling. It’s a tremendous honor,” Jones said. “When you think about the university’s rich history and all the people who have come through here, to receive such recognition is just overwhelming. We are both extremely honored.”
Jones met his wife at Utah State, and they have two children who attend USU as student-athletes. Their son Isaiah is a senior cornerback on the football team and daughter Daphne competes in the long jump and triple jump on the track and field team.
“We both understand the value of athletics, and the powerful way it can impact lives. It wasn’t so much following our footsteps, but knowing what this kind of experience can provide - the lessons learned on the field, how to work with a team, working through adversity,” Jones said. “From that perspective we are pleased they are having that kind of experience. We know the impact it will have on them 20-30 years from now.”
Curtis began his career at Utah State as a walk-on but led the nation in receptions that season, earning him third-team All-American honors. He was put on scholarship for his senior season. Today, he still holds the USU record for most 100-yard receiving games at 16. He graduated from Utah State in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in business marketing and was drafted by the St. Louis rams as the 74th overall pick in the the third round of that year’s NFL draft.
In 2007, Curtis moved from St. Louis to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played for three years. He set career highs with a total of 1,110 yards, 77 receptions and six touchdowns. He was only the 11th receiver in Eagles’ history to hit the 1,000-yards mark. While battling injuries, Curtis spent the last two seasons moving between the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. He is currently a free agent.
“I hate to admit it, but I really didn’t even know what a grand marshal was when they asked me. I haven’t really ever been able to make it back for Homecoming, but have always wanted to,” Curtis said. “I’m honored that they would select me, and I’m excited to be back.”
As they left their athletic careers at Utah State behind, both Curtis and Jones said there were countless lessons and experiences they had that have helped them get through the professional world.
As he started in the NFL, Curtis said the way he learned under then head coach Mick Dennehy helped him get through the tough times.
“I didn’t know there was so much to learn. I think some of the coaching I had at Utah State kind of opened my eyes to how much more I could improve as a player,” Curtis said. “When I showed up to the pros, I felt a little overwhelmed and almost like I’d hit a wall just because there were so many guys who were better than me. I just used the same approach of trying to improve each day – the method that helped me as a walk-on at Utah State.”
As Jones worked his way up through the ranks of his career, he was never scared about anything because of the things he learned as a student-athlete.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my experiences here and how those experiences have helped me through life. I always thought that when I left here I could do almost anything. Coming from south-central Los Angeles to a place like Logan, Utah and being able to navigate both places, I figured everything else was in between,” Jones said. “I was never afraid of what might be on the other side. I was always excited because I knew that from the preparation I had, that somehow I’d make it through. Even if I didn’t understand, I knew how to try.”
As Aggies of all ages come back to Logan this weekend, there is a general feeling of pride and love for their alma mater. For these former players, they are especially excited to return to a thriving football program that continues to grow.
“I really enjoyed my years up here,” Curtis said. “I’m excited to be back there, especially at a time when football is good.”
Jones, speaking for his wife, Sylvia, agreed.
“We’re excited to be back," he said. "It’s exciting to see the Aggies playing at the level that they are.”
Saturday’s game against UNLV will kick off at 6 p.m. at Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. Per head coach Gary Andersen’s request, all in attendance are invited to participate in the first-ever "White Out".
For USU football ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or call 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Tickets can also be purchased 24 hours a day on the USU website.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company