Jones uses football platform to give back

In sixth grade, on a mission trip to Haiti with his family and members of his Memphis-area church, Barrett Jones discovered his passion to serve others.

He was leading Bible study for children at a Haitian church when he realized the Christian faith he had always been a part of was much more than just “going through the motions,” he said. Jones never realized how blessed he was in the United States until he saw how those children were living.

“They still have so much faith,” he said. “They were so inspiring to me and made me want to do more.”

Today, Jones, the 6-foot-5-inch, 301-pound offensive lineman, continues to live out his passion for serving others. He stands for much more than a beacon of athleticism and scholarship on the University of Alabama campus.

While tens of thousands on campus and throughout the country know him as an All-American and a standout on the Tide’s 2012 National Championship team, a small group of UA students know him as the leader of an annual mission trip designed to serve others in different parts of the world.

Jones, an accounting master’s student with a 4.0 GPA and one more class to complete his degree, has proven to be an expert at balancing academics, athletics and service. Aside from the trips he leads annually, Jones has actively participated in tornado relief efforts in Tuscaloosa and has worked with countless other community service organizations during his time as a UA student.

“God has blessed me to have so much influence at 22, and I want to use it in the best way possible,” he said.

Jones said his life changed in 2009, during his sophomore year of college, when he took a leadership role in Campus Crusade for Christ, a ministry that helps launch spiritual movements on college campuses. CRU, along with his hometown church, Bellevue Baptist Church, and his lifetime role model, his dad, inspired Jones to lead mission trips for students at UA.

“I just felt called to do it,” he said.

Over the past three years, Jones has lead groups to Haiti twice and Nicaragua once. Jones’s first trip in spring 2010 only had three people. Now, he takes 30 people annually for a week over spring break.

On the trips, the students have worked to rebuild damaged school buildings and orphanages. They also served hot meals to those in need and spent lots of time “just having a good time with the kids,” Jones said.

Jones shared the Gospel with around 400 Haitian kids during a pickup soccer game, said Lissa Handley Tyson, a senior accounting major at UA who went on Jones’s 2011 trip to Haiti.

“It was just incredible!” Tyson said.

Jones uses the sense of discipline and mental toughness he has acquired from football to organize the trips, he said.

“But, most importantly, I use my love of teamwork to make [the trips] both meaningful and successful.”

Jones organized the whole trip and brought so much enthusiasm to the group, Tyson said.

“His excitement was contagious, and his love for Haiti spread to everyone on the trip before we even boarded the plane.”

Leading missions influences his life as an athlete, Jones said. It reminds him that “it is better to give than to receive,” he said. It also makes him appreciate his life.

“Sometimes when I’m in a tough game or practice, I just think of the kids I’ve gotten to know over in Haiti, and they encourage me to push through.”

When he finishes his 2012 season, his fifth and final season with the Tide after being redshirted his freshman year, Jones plans to carry on both his football career and his missionary work. He wants to enter the draft after the season is completed, he said.

“I want to continue to expose young people to missions,” he said. “I also want to play in the NFL.“

But when it comes down to it, Jones said his commitment to living out his faith is much stronger than his desire to be a professional athlete.

“I don’t want to be known as a football player who happens to be a Christian, but as a Christian who happens to be a football player,” he said.