Senior free safety Chase Jones isn’t close to being the tallest or heaviest player on the Whiteland High School football roster.
At the same time it would be difficult finding someone more valued.
The 5-foot-7, 168 pound Jones is one of the Warriors’ defensive co-captains this season after recording 77 tackles, two sacks and an interception for last season’s Class 5A regional qualifier.
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Don’t let the smallish stature fool you.
Having the senior on the field as one of the Warriors’ last lines of defense is a tremendous comfort to coach Darrin Fisher, who knows his team benefits from Jones’ infectious love of the sport.
“We talk about leadership as selling something positive on a daily basis. Chase leads with his work habits, aggressive style of play and positive attitude. He has fun playing, football and his teammates emulate that,” Fisher said.
Whiteland opened last Friday with a 66-0 blitzing of South Dearborn — the program’s first shutout since Week 1 of the 2010 season — to move to No. 7 in the Class 5A poll.
Jones, who contributed three defensive tackles, two more on special teams and broke up a pass in the win against the Knights, has made significant strides since his varsity football debut in the 2014 opener at Lafayette Jeff.
“In that game I rotated with both linebackers for important downs. I was usually the blitzing linebacker,” Jones said of the 43-14 defeat of the Bronchos. “Even though it was my first game I really wasn’t nervous at all.”
Jones produced six tackles in the victory. He would eventually go on to register a season- and career-high 12 tackles in triumphs against Franklin and Plainfield.
He even returned the football 82 yards with his one pick of a season ago in a 33-6 defeat of Mid-State Conference foe Mooresville in Week 7.
Those connected with the Whiteland program respect the intangibles Jones provides a veteran team aspiring to make a deep postseason run.
This includes fellow defensive co-captain Jacob Walters, the Warriors’ starting 5-10, 185-pound outside linebacker.
“With Chase, he’s just a guy who does what he needs to do and is one of the best examples we have. He’s always been someone who isn’t afraid to put someone in their place on the field,” Walters said.
Jones’ leadership branches in different directions.
Sometimes it’s with instruction to a younger, more-impressionable teammate; most other occasions it’s by demonstrating the kind of work ethic day in and day out that motivates those around him.
“I’m a lot more talkative with my friends. There are times for fun, but when it comes to football I’m one of the more focused guys,” Jones said.
As for being a hitter, well, that sort of comes with the position Jones plays.
“I think we have a lot of hard hitters on this team,” Walters said. “Chase is definitely one of them.”
Jones added that tackling fundamentals are what’s most important to him. Whatever happens once No. 38 makes contact with an opposing ball carrier is for others to decide.
“I just to be a great tackler, and to do that I feel you have to be a hard hitter,” Jones said. “I’m mainly there for run support, but I have been told I hit very hard for my size.”
Whiteland’s level of competition is about to increase drastically, with Weeks 2 and 3 being games against Class 6A No. 3 Center Grove and Class 5A No. 8 Decatur Central, respectively.
This week’s game against the Trojans’ potent Wing-T offense will no doubt challenge the Whiteland defense in ways South Dearborn couldn’t.
Expect Jones to be ready. After all, he always is.
THE JONES FILE
Name: Chase Jones
Family: Parents, Keith and Pam; sister, Jessica Schwartz, 32; brother, Ben Hagan, 30
Favorite TV show: “Street Outlaws”
Favorite food: Italian
Favorite movie: “Fast and Furious”
Favorite athlete: J.J. Watt
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts