INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Jones passed out pants and belts to the 92 of Indiana’s best high school football players on the opening day of the week-long All-Star practices.
When a 6-foot-9 offensive lineman approached him, Jones’s eyes widened.
“Wow,” Jones thought. “Why couldn’t he be going to Fairfield?”
Jones, an assistant football coach at Fairfield, is a member of the 10-man coaching staff for the North team for the 2013 North-South All-Star football game, Friday, July 19. He’ll always be proud of the Fairfield work ethic, but his week-long stay in Indianapolis has given him a chance to coach the best of the best in the state.
“(Fairfield) has great kids that work hard, but they’re not always the biggest and fastest,” he said. “Now I have great kids that work hard and are pretty big and pretty fast. It’s a lot of fun when you teach a drill and you show them one time and they execute it.”
For Jones, who was a head coach at Fairfield from 1988-2001 and returned in 2011 as an assistant coach, the chance to participate in the annual All-Star game has been a career-long dream.
“I think it’s a goal for everybody to hope to get to coach in the All-Star game,” said Jones, who has coached at Wawasee, Fairfield and Goshen in his 30-year career. “As head coach, I never had that opportunity. As an assistant coach, I feel pretty lucky. It’s always been a goal of mine.”
Jones, who has been in charge of the North’s defensive line this week, said he’s been able to coach several familiar faces he’s coached against in football or wrestling, such as Matt Hurford of Culver Community and Drake DeMuyt of East Noble.
He said he’s impressed by what he’s seen of the eight players from the Elkhart County area on the North team, which includes Fairfield kicker Eldon Burtsfield, Central receiver Spencer Schnell, Jimtown running back Tanner Adams and Concord offensive lineman Tyler Hoffman.
“Everybody knows they’re down here as a group,” he said. “They’re getting along great, no high school rivalries. They’re doing a really good job coming together as one unit and playing for the North.”
Since Sunday, both teams have participated in all-day sessions that include meetings and three-a-day practices. Elkhart area players who came from different schemes or used different terminology have adapted quickly, Jones said.
Jones has also had the chance to pick the brains of some of the best coaches in Northern Indiana. He’s learned from Lafayette Central Catholic coach Tim O’Shea, Marian coach Reggie Glon and Kurt Tippmann of Fort Wayne Snider.
Jones has paid special attention to Glon, who runs an option offense at Marian.
“Anything I can pick up from him works down the road,” he said of Glon. “I’m storing those tidbits.”
Elkhart area North Team members:
Jim Jones, assistant coach, Fairfield
Reggie Glon, head coach, Marian
Tanner Adams, running back, Jimtown Eldon Burtsfield, kicker, Fairfield
Samuel Daggy, defensive end, Penn Chad Eppley, offensive lineman, Wawasee
Tyler Hoffman, offensive lineman, Concord
Michael Mason, defensive back, Penn
Spencer Schnell, wide receiver, Central
Michael Whitfield, running back, Marian
Kyla Vester, manager, Fairfield
Kickoff: Friday, July 19, at 7 p.m. at North Central High School in Indianapolis.
The game is not televised.
The South leads the series 25-21.