MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – The year was 1990, and Leonard Jones was jumping. He combined with teammate Martez Williams to win a state team track title.
“That was the best feeling I ever had, as a senior in high school to actually have two individuals win the whole thing, and you have teams with 30 to 100 plus athletes and you only just got two who win the whole thing. That’s unheard of,” said Jones.
Jones was also part of a Patrick Henry basketball team with Williams and a 6-foot-11 inch center named Dennis Winfield.
Both have died since high school: Williams jumped off a bridge, and Winfield was shot while working in a convenience store.
“It was a devastating time for me, especially with Martez. Him and I were so close we were like brothers. We called each other brothers,” he said. “And the second incident, you know, with Dennis Winfield, I was still getting over Martez’s death, and then when that happened – it just really makes you think that life is precious and you have to take life seriously.”
Perhaps that’s part of why he’s back at Minneapolis Henry as a coach. Even though he could work at almost any school, he understands the kids and their environment.
“It was definitely important to come back to Henry seeing that’s where it all started out for me. I just wanted to have an opportunity for the henry athletes to experience someone who was in the building, the same seats as those students,” he said.
Jones is reaching out to a small yet important group, with an equal emphasis on motivation and performance.
At age 40, he’s still Leapin’ Leonard Jones, albeit with a slightly diminished leap. He’s was also just inducted into the NCAA Track Hall of Fame for his career at St. Thomas.
‘It’s amazing, the NCAA Hall of Fame just kinda put the icing on the cake for me, so it was amazing,” said Jones.
When WCCO first profiled Jones 22 years ago, he was into music – in which he is still involved with, and is even working on a new CD.
“I was in a choir here at Henry. I kinda took those roots from my family members, some of them they’re singers as well. Working on a project as we speak. I love singing, I play the keyboards, the bass, the guitar. So I just love music,” he said.
But more importantly, he’s showing the kids in his neighborhood how life can be lived, while enjoying every minute.
“I just love the opportunity teaching the athletes something I was taught, and see that the can get it just the way I got it when I was taught as well,” said Jones.