Packers' Aaron Jones follows father's path to becoming 'The real deal'

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ben Sirmans has dealt with his share of parents -- from the doting mothers to starry-eyed fathers -- during his coaching career.

As a high school teacher and coach, he heard from those who believed their kids deserved all A's and college scholarships.

As a college coach, he dealt with the my-kid-is-a-first-round-pick crowd.

Lest anyone thinks that stops at the NFL level, meet Alvin Jones Sr.

Except there was one major difference with the father of Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones.

"He was right," said Sirmans, who coaches Aaron Jones and the rest of the Packers running backs.

"I would see his dad right when he got here, after those first couple of games, he would be like: 'I'm telling you, coach, he's the real deal,'" Sirmans said. "You always get that from parents, from high school to college. I still remember him saying after Aaron's first big game: 'I told you.'"

'My dad is a special man'

Alvin Jones Sr. raised two NFL sons -- twins born Dec. 2, 1994, in Georgia.

He did so by staying as involved as possible -- which, considering his profession, was often a struggle.

Yet he must have done something right because Alvin Jr. signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted linebacker in 2018; he has yet to play in an NFL regular-season game and was waived with an injury settlement earlier this offseason. He's healthy now and hoping to get back on the workout circuit for teams.

Aaron, the Packers' fifth-round pick in 2017, has become one of the NFL's most productive running backs. He's tied for second in the league with 15 touchdowns heading into Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

"I always made time for my family," Alvin Sr. told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview from his home in El Paso, Texas. "I coached the boys all the way up until they started playing school ball. One thing I always did was build a great relationship with their coaches so that I could be involved because over the years I've seen some horrible coaches ruin some great kids. I was determined not to let that happen to my kids."

However, this isn't a helicopter-parent story.

Alvin Sr., 55, simply wanted more for his sons.

In return, he was willing to work for it.

Alvin Sr. played one year of high school football in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.

"Every time I go back there, his friends tell me how slippery he was, how good he was, how fast he was," Aaron said. "And I'm just like man, I wish I got the chance to see him play."

Few did, but Alvin Sr. quit sports for a reason -- a good reason.

"My family situation wasn't real stable," he said, "so I had to go to work."

At first, he chose the fast food/restaurant industry and eventually settled in at Chuck E. Cheese.

"When you work in fast food, how you make the money is you close," he said. "So I'd go to school and then get to work until the restaurant closed."

This was before he owned a vehicle.

"I'd catch the last bus at night leaving that area heading back to my area," he said. "By the time I finished getting everything cleaned up, I'd catch that last bus at 12:30 in the morning, go home to sleep and then get up at about 6:30 to catch the bus to school."

Alvin Sr. picked up a second job after graduation. It was on the Naval base in Norfolk. After a year of double-shifts, he enlisted in the Army, signing up for a three-year commitment.

"It was so easy because a big part of the Army was the physical part of it," he said. "Well, I was an athlete so that was really easy. Before I hit the three-year mark, I was a sergeant. After my three-year enlistment, I was like, 'I'm not going anywhere, this is the easiest money I've ever made in my life.'"

He served 29 years and in the service met his wife, Vurgess, who served 27 years. It took their family from Virginia to Germany to Georgia to Tennessee and finally to Texas. The hardest time came in 2003, when Alvin and Vurgess began simultaneous deployments to different parts of Iraq. Not only were they apart from each other, but they were apart from their children, who lived with relatives.

"If he wouldn't have made those sacrifices, and stopped playing football, and got those jobs, then joined the Army, his life might have been different," Aaron said.

"My dad is a special man. He set out to be different from his environment, his culture. He wants to better himself, and better everyone around him. He knew what he had to do to try to change his family's lives and take care of himself. I'm so grateful for him."

Free Aaron Jones

Aaron's first two NFL seasons were filled with cries from those who wanted to see him with the ball in his hands more often. Despite a league-best average of 5.5 yards per carry last season, it never happened.

Until Matt LaFleur arrived as head coach.

To prepare Jones for LaFleur's running back-centric offense, Sirmans cued up film of backs who already have succeeded in the McVay-Shanahan offense, namely Devonta Freeman with the Falcons (where LaFleur coached from 2015-16) and Todd Gurley with the Rams (where LaFleur coached in 2017).

"The biggest thing that I tried to expose him to is, 'Hey, here's some of the things that guys that have played in this offense, some of the production that they've had. You can have the same type of production,'" Sirmans said.

But he didn't want Jones to mimic them.

"He's his own guy," Sirmans said. "All three guys are built differently. Obviously I had the opportunity to coach Todd in St. Louis, was even with Freeman at the Pro Bowl. All three guys have their own separate skillset. I think the biggest underlying factor is they're all pretty explosive, and I think that's what helps Aaron be productive in this offense, because he has explosive ability. So although all three guys have a different way of doing it, if you are an explosive back by traits, you can have a lot of production."

Jones has written himself into the Packers' record books this season, joining Jim Taylor and Ahman Green as the only running backs in franchise history to reach 1,200 yards from scrimmage with 15 touchdowns in a single season.

With three games to go, Green's single-season team touchdown record of 20 remains within reach. Jones would need at least one multiple-touchdown game, but he already has three multi-rushing-touchdown games this season. Only three other backs have done that this season.

"I haven't [thought about the 20 mark], but that would be pretty cool," Jones said. "It would mean a lot, but one game at a time. But hopefully I get three or four in a game -- something like that -- and they would keep adding up."

'Find time'

Alvin Sr. retired from the Army three weeks before his twin sons began their senior year of high school.

He hasn't missed a snap since.

During Aaron's rookie year with the Packers, he would see Alvin Jr. play for UTEP on a Saturday and meet up with Aaron and the Packers on Sunday. It may become more difficult if Alvin Jr. gets another shot in the NFL, but at least this summer they were in the same place at the same time when the Ravens and Packers played in the preseason.

It was evident in Aaron, even before his NFL success, that he was his father's son. He exuded a yes-sir-no-sir-I'm-sorry-sir attitude from the day he was drafted.

So here was Alvin Sr., starting off a phone call with ESPN.com with an apology. He meant to call sooner after a face-to-face meeting at Lambeau Field, but he put the card with the phone number he was supposed to call in the jeans he wore that day and when he went home, the jeans and the number went through the wash.

What Alvin Sr. won't apologize for, however, is his son's success and the path it took to get him there.

For those who have young athletes, he has some advice.

"Find time," he said. "If you can't coach them, at least find time to talk the game with them. That's the key, staying involved."