By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
If you look at his stats, Quitman High School senior Franklin Jones shouldn't be easily ignored. However, you won't find the 5-foot-7, 170-pound quarterback on any national recruiting site.
No, if you want to find Jones' name, a better place to look would be the record books. Jones has torched opponents for 1188 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground and 931 yards and seven touchdowns in the air this season.
The third-year starter at quarterback has been the Panthers do-it-all man on offense, coming up big in every game this season. Jones has not only led Quitman on the field, but also displays a quiet leadership off of it and is the driving force behind the Panthers 7-1 start.
“He just does everything,” Quitman head coach Steve Bynum said. “He can run, but he can also throw the ball, which makes him a dual threat. You can't ask for anymore, he's what you need to have on your team. We are just glad he's on our side.”
Bynum is not just thankful to have Jones on his side, he's also happy he doesn't have to prepare to go against him. Opponents have not been able to find an answer for Jones this season, and Bynum said he isn't sure there is one when planning to limit the agile quarterback. Even Jones isn't sure he knows how he would go about stopping himself this season.
“That's kind of hard when I think about it,” Jones said. “I guess I'd stack the box, but if you do that, I'm just going to throw it over you. I don't really know, I'll leave that to the other coaches to figure out.”
So what makes the Jones so deadly on the field? It isn't any form of super-human speed, as he runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-4.7 range. Instead, it's an ability to slow the game down that produces results for Jones.
After three seasons as starting quarterback, Jones sees the field better than anyone else on it. Bynum said he hasn't seen a player with the ability to cut and hit holes as well as Jones.
“He's got great balance, and he is very shifty,” Bynum said. “He is always able to adjust his body to keep from taking the big hit, or he can slip through a seam that looks like it is about to close up. His balance is just awesome.”
If you ask Jones about his success, he is more likely to defer the spotlight to his offensive line than he is to take any of the credit himself. The humble leader doesn't get too caught up in the attention and is always quick to help out a teammate in need.
“As a teammate he's a real good guy,” offensive lineman Lance Lyon said. “He's a good kid. Even outside the field, he'll help you with anything, classroom stuff, whatever. He really is a team leader by example. He doesn't need to get in your face, he's just an example of a leader.”
Despite the strong relationship between Jones and his teammates, his friends on the team still know how to give him a tough time.
Jones' cousin, defensive tackle Reggie Hamilton is bigger than Jones and lets him hear about it all the time.
“I'll always tell him I'm bigger than him,” Hamilton said. “He will just shoot back that he is older.”
Lyon laughed adding, “At least Reggie can say he sees over the steering wheel when he drives.”
While it is all fun and games when his teammates joke about his size, Jones said it is a totally different story when other people take him for granted. While he hasn't generated a lot of interest from colleges, Jones said he wants to prove he is just as capable as some of the bigger quarterbacks in the league.
“They look over me because I am so small,” Jones said. “I really try to prove people wrong. It ain't all about size. If you want to play, a lot of coaches told me it's about heart.”
Ultimately, Jones would like to receive his dream offer to the University of Southern Mississippi. But, the focused athlete said the talk of colleges can wait until after the season, as Jones and the Panthers are focused on one thing right now – a 4A state championship.
“This is my last year here, and I'm going to do everything in my power to win state,” Jones said. “I'm going to try my best, because that is what I want and that's my goal.”