Oh Yeah! CJ “Kool-Aid” Jones hoping to go out with a bang for Bolingbrook

Jones is a Cincinnati commit and held offers from nine other Division I programs

Bolingbrook’s defensive back C.J. Jones makes a play on the ball against Minooka. Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, in Bolingbrook.

When Jermaine Cornell Jones [CJ for short] was 6 years old, he already was setting himself apart from others.

Running around football practice, most kids went to drink water to hydrate themselves. Jones could be seen with a cup of Kool-Aid, smiling from ear to ear just like the Kool-Aid man.

While most people are lucky enough to get a nickname, Jones has two. He’s fine with Jermaine, CJ or Kool-Aid, whichever you’re most comfortable with, just so long as you get his position correct.

“Stop calling me a corner,” Jones said. “I play defensive back. I’m a DB. I play safety and corner. A lot of people just see me as a corner, but I play both. I’m not just a corner, I’m a defensive back.”

He’s a pretty darn good one, too.

Jones, a rising senior for Bolingbrook, is considered a three-star prospect by multiple recruiting outlets. At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds Jones has quality size for a DB and outstanding speed, as he runs the 100 meters in 10.9 seconds and the 200 in 22.8 seconds. Those qualities, his natural ability and the skills he’s honed have helped earn him a lot of attention. Many college programs are looking at him at corner.

But remember, don’t call him a corner. He lists his versatility as one of his greatest strengths.

“My physicality and my playmaking are my biggest strengths,” Jones said. “I can make a tackle or a big hit and still make a play on the ball. I also have the versatility to play safety and play corner. I think I’m an all around DB. A lot of guys just play corner or just play safety, but I have the ability to play both and do both things.”

Yet even with those strengths, Jones always is trying to get better any way he can. That includes being more vocal.

“I’m trying to be a better leader,” Jones said. “I’m trying to lead my whole team and not just the DBs. In the past, I was just focused on my DBs. I wasn’t focused on the linebacker’s responsibilities or the defensive line’s responsibilities. So, now I’m trying to help everyone everywhere on the field.”

That all around package and desire to get better are part of the reason why he received 10 D-I offers to play at the next level. That includes five FBS programs in Ball State, Kent State, Miami (OH) and Power Five programs Boston College and Cincinnati. Ultimately, coach Scott Satterfield and the Bearcats of the Big 12 won out.

While Cincinnati went 3-9 in its inaugural season in the Big 12 last year, the Bearcats were 53-11 the previous five seasons. That includes an appearance in the College Football Playoff in 2021. Cincinnati was lead that year by defensive back Sauce Gardner, now an All-Pro with the New York Jets. Jones couldn’t turn down the opportunity to develop his game at the same school that molded one of the best DBs in the NFL.

“I can see myself fitting in with the defense there,” Jones said. “The staff is great, the facilities are great. I’m about to go to a juggernaut, so I’m really excited.”

He knows that it won’t be easy playing at that level. The workload will harder than ever before. That’s why he’s preparing himself now.

“My offseason routine has definitely changed,” Jones said. “I’m working out at least three times a day. That’s something I’ve never done before. I want to prepare myself to have a really great season, and an even better season when I get to Cincinnati. I’m just trying to grow myself physically and mentally. I know when you get to college you’re working out three times a day, so I’m getting used to it now.”

Before that, however, he’s planning on helping Bolingbrook get over the hump. The Raiders haven’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2019. Losing Kyan-Berry Johnson to graduation and Jonah Williams to a transfer certainly will hurt, but Jones isn’t the only D-1 recruit on the roster. He’s hoping that he and everyone else returning this year will help Bolingbrook stop the skid.

“We want to break the curse of losing in the first round of the playoffs,” Jones said. “We want to make history and make it past the first round for the first time in like five years. That’s our goal. We want to play our hearts out. We want the team to play the Raider Way and live the RAC [responsibility, accountability, coachability]. We want to lead things in the right direction.”