You might have heard that David Jones was shot during an altercation at his home in Red Jacket, W.Va., between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on July 26.
You might not have heard that the former Belfry and University of Kentucky standout drove himself to Williamson Memorial Hospital, about 30 minutes from his home, before he was transported to Pikeville Medical Center that morning.
“I barely made it,” Jones said in a phone interview with the Herald-Leader this week. “My feet started to get cold. … I was just blessed to make it. It’s a surreal moment, big time. I don’t wish this on anyone at all.”
Jones, who’s in his second year as the head football coach at Phelps High School, was shot in the abdomen with an unknown-caliber weapon during the July incident. Dennis Paige Jr., 28, on Aug. 14 was charged with malicious wounding in connection with the shooting. Paige waived a preliminary hearing on Aug. 31 and the case will go before the a grand jury in Mingo County, W.Va., on Sept. 17.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Paige was out of prison on a bond stemming from drug charges. Rumors quickly spread around the area that Jones was involved in a drug deal; he refuted that gossip.
“If I was a drug dealer you’d better be damn sure I wouldn’t be driving a used car no more,” Jones said with a laugh. “ … I don’t know what kind of drug dealer they think I was, but it wasn’t a good one.”
Jones was in the hospital about two weeks before he was able to return to coaching duties. His players were able to visit him while he was incapacitated.
“It almost destroyed em’,” Jones said. “Them having to come to the hospital and see me on ICU and life support and stuff, you don’t want no kid or any of your players to ever see anything like that. … That was tough for me, just having to explain to my kids what’s going on, and seeing them cry thinking I’m dead and stuff. That’s been the toughest part for me.”
Once he was able to be with the team again, Jones made his guys promise that they wouldn’t play the season in his honor.
“It was never gonna be about me. It was just gonna be 100 percent about them,” Jone said. “And the only way we could get this focused off of my situation was if we win. They accepted that challenge and they’ve been doing a great job.”
Great is perhaps an understatement; the Hornets are 2-0 for the first time since 1984. The program had lost 24 straight games before Jones took over, a streak that ended at 27 straight last September. Phelps, which hasn’t had a winning season this millennium, has won six of its last nine contests dating back to last year.
The aftermath of the shooting hasn’t been easy for Jones. Doctors had to leave the bullet in his colon because it was too close to his spine, making paralysis a constant concern. He isn’t allowed to lift heavy objects for six months, and said he’ll never be able to run again. His hearing ability has decreased and he’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.
“I’ve got a lot that’s been taken from me that’s just been mentally hurting me, but at the end of the day I’m alive and I’m able to tell my story,” Jones said. “But not only that, I’m able to try to change some things around here because there’s been a lot of black-on-black crime and nobody wants to speak up on it. I’m gonna speak up on it because I was involved in it and nobody wants to understand it.”
Jones, who works as a counselor at Phelps, relishes the time he gets to spend helping students at the school as well as spending time around his staff and players on the team. “When I’m alone,” he said, “that’s when all the emotions come about.”
He was in a depressed state last Thursday — the day Paige waived his hearing — before the Hornets took the field at Sheldon Clark. It was the first time Jones saw Paige since the alleged shooting, and he was honest with his team about his mental condition that evening.
“‘Y’know guys, I had to relive some things today that I just didn’t want to. I know this is not fair to you, but Coach Jones’ head is just not right,’” he told his players in the locker room. “I told em to go out and play and help me get something positive out of the day.”
Phelps won, 18-8.
“And they did that. This team has just been wonderful. Not only have I helped this team, they’ve helped me.”