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Giants Draft Pick Chad Jones Still Chasing NFL Dream Despite Gruesome Leg Injury


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NEW ORLEANS — With the tip of his right crutch, Chad Jones flicks pieces of a shattered headlight — his shattered headlight — at the cracked concrete base of the light pole.


“I have a funny feeling in my stomach right now,” Jones said, “just thinking about it all.”


Three months ago, he signed a four-year, $2.616-million deal and was on the verge of realizing his pro football dreams.


A third-round draft pick, he could run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.


Now, it’s a strain just to walk one mile an hour on a treadmill or even bend his leg into a 90-degree angle during pool therapy sessions.


In June, the safety and returner had been outfitted with a Giants jersey, practice gear, shoulder pads and helmet.


Now, he wears a walking boot on one leg and needs crutches to get around on the other.


Three months ago, he was driving his black Range Rover down Carrollton Avenue here in his hometown when his tires got caught on street-car tracks, sending the SUV over a 5-inch curb and onto a median before crashing into a light pole — this light pole.


With months of healing still to come, his return to the Giants is uncertain. He is still chasing the NFL dream, calling on the same drive that once made him a star. The steps are slow.


First he must walk again, his body must heal and the sacrifice must be heroic — and still he may never get back to the game. Jones has football-shaped scars on either side of a calf swollen to nearly twice its normal size, a pale blotch on his thigh where a skin graft was harvested, and a heel wound that has yet to close.


Still, he says, “It’s great to be alive. The worst is behind me. I’m looking forward to the positives in my life.”




In the early morning hours of June 25, Jones struggled to regain his senses.


The front driver’s side axle had snapped upon impact and shot straight up his left leg. The metal shard took a chunk out of his thigh (“like it was Jell-O,” Jones says) and, as doctors would learn later, punctured his femoral artery.


Jones didn’t feel anything, and his first thought was that his leg was broken and that he would miss a few games. He didn’t even look down until his friend Mike Mansion, who had been sleeping in the passenger seat, saw blood squirting out of Jones’ leg. That’s when he felt a rush of pain and began screaming in agony for the next 30 minutes.


Jones remained conscious. Mansion passed out.


Paramedics arrived 10 minutes after the crash but couldn’t provide any immediate relief for Jones, whose requests to be sedated were declined because of his low blood pressure. According to the police report, it took 23 minutes for Jones to be extricated from the car and taken to LSU Public Hospital in an ambulance. (The report also indicates police didn’t smell any alcohol in the car, on Jones or his two passengers, Mansion and Robert Newman. No blood tests were taken, though Jones was charged with careless operation of a motor vehicle.)


At about 7 a.m., Jones went into surgery. During the next 11 hours, doctors cut open both sides of his calf and began working to transplant veins from his right leg to his left to restore blood flow to his ankle. At times, they weren’t sure if they’d be able to save his leg.


“Your bones are crushed, you’re losing all of your blood. You don’t know what really happened,” Jones said. “It was crazy. 110 percent pain. I wouldn’t want to go through that again. I wouldn’t want anybody to go through it.”


At least he doesn’t have to go through it alone.




Jade Newman is seated on metal bleachers, watching her boyfriend slowly shuffle sideways the length of the indoor pool.


“I never had a doubt in my mind he’d be okay,” Newman said of Jones. “I still don’t.”


The only doubt she ever had was when she was awakened by a middle-of-the-night phone call from a screaming Jones. She couldn’t understand him at first and thought he was joking.


So she hung up.


Minutes later, after a call from her brother, she was racing to the scene of the accident. She passed the couple’s 2-year-old son, Chad Jr., to either Mansion or her brother and then ran toward Jones’ car. Before she got there, Newman was tackled by police, who didn’t want her to startle Jones.


“He was in the car, eyes closed with his head on the back of the seat,” Newman recalled. “My thought was, ‘Is he dead?’ ”


On the way to the hospital, Newman rode in the front seat of the ambulance, sticking her head through the window toward the back. She yelled for Jones to stay awake while he yelled for morphine.


Newman remained with Jones when he was transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. There, he underwent 10 to 12 surgeries — Jones said he lost count — including procedures to insert a metal rod and screws into his tibia and fibula.


The Giants provided Jade with a hotel room, but she only used it to shower and change. She slept in a chair by Jones’ bedside. Or at least she tried, as doctors and nurses came in and out all night.


Newman is enrolled in online classes to obtain a degree in interior design, so she was able to keep up with those during her stay in the hospital. But she and Jones, who met seven years ago and even endured Newman’s brief displacement to northern Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, also spent time talking about their lifestyle.


“It made us better parents and made us slow down,” said Newman, who wears a promise ring and is expecting to marry Jones. “We were going out on the town, going out every night, letting my mom keep the baby all the time. You know that’s not right, but we’re young. In the hospital we had nothing to do but think and we were like, ‘Yeah, we have to change our life.’ ”


Jones was discharged in late July, and he and Newman were overcome by what could have been shortly after they spent their first night together in a house they rented back home.


That Sunday, Jones couldn’t find any pants that would fit over his swollen leg. Having yet to unpack from their spring in Jersey and summer in Manhattan, Newman grabbed a white bag she believed contained clean clothes.


Out came Jones’ bloody jeans and the left shoe rescue workers had to cut off.


“We both just broke out crying, just bust-out crying,” Newman said. “I never, ever broke down in front of him the whole time. I felt like if I started crying I’d make him upset. But I couldn’t help it.


“He had to wear shorts to church.”


But there’s no time for dwelling on hard times. Jones is about to start jogging for the first time.




“Jade,” Jones says from across the pool, “Film this.”


Jones starts pumping his arms and legs. His physical therapist, John Moran, is right there with him, occasionally diving below the surface to check his patient’s leg motion. Jones makes it from the deep end to the shallow in just over a minute.


“That took a lot out of me right there,” he says.


On his next lap, his entire body locks up and he’s forced to grab the lane divider with only about 10 yards left. He finishes with a grunt as he reaches the wall in 1:12. His last lap, which included only a momentary stop, was timed at 1:07.


“Sweating in a pool,” he jokes, “on the road to success.”


Jones didn’t take his first steps without crutches until mid-September. Two weeks ago, he was walking 0.3 mph on the treadmill for only three minutes. Friday, he reached 1 mph during an eight-minute walk. The sight of a bead of sweat dripping down his right sideburn made Jade laugh, considering she once shot video of him running full-speed on a treadmill for an hour while barely breaking a sweat.


“I have high hopes for him,” said Moran, who once helped a triathlete with worse injuries than Jones recover fully. “If he can gain the motion and the speed back, there’s no reason he can’t return to playing at a high level.”


Right now, Moran just wants to make sure Jones is walking correctly instead of swinging his leg out to the side with each step. Jones is focusing on the basics as well, but with an eye on his return to the football field. A former pitcher for LSU, Jones isn’t about to settle for a shot at a baseball career that would be less taxing on his leg.


“That’s supposed to be me out there,” he said of his thoughts while watching the Giants’ games. “I know I can help the team do better. I can just see myself running around making plays.”


Jones, who is scheduled to jog out of the pool later this fall, has set a goal of one calendar year to return to football drills. That likely means he would miss the Giants’ entire 2011 spring training program.




After dressing in the locker room (a task Jones used to take for granted), he’s on his way out of the pool, which is now overrun with about two dozen rambunctious boys.


“We’re pulling for you, man!” an older man yells to Jones above the din.


The pool is at Isidore Newman School, which all three Manning children attended. As Jones walks to the Cadillac Escalade he bought for Jade after the accident, he passes a sign in the south end zone of the football field. It’s a green No. 18 jersey with the names of the Mannings and their graduation years: Cooper (’92), Peyton (’94) and Eli (’99).


Eli Manning is one of many Giants players who has reached out to Jones. Brandon Jacobs, a Louisiana native, visited several times in the hospital. Rich Seubert showed him the encouraging results of his skin graft following a 2003 surgery to repair a ghastly broken leg. And Corey Webster, also a former LSU standout, reminds Jones to stay positive and focus only on what can happen moving forward.


On Sept. 15 in East Rutherford, fellow rookie Phillip Dillard looked up toward the end of practice and saw Jones sitting on the patio area overlooking the field. Other players were also surprised, and 15 minutes after practice was over, Jones was still receiving hugs and handshakes from his teammates.


“It was good to be around that kind of atmosphere,” Jones said. “It was a natural feeling being around those guys.”


It’s also natural to be around Jade and the energetic and outgoing Chad Jr., who wears his father’s old LSU helmet while running with a football around the house.


“I just know I have to start grinding and try to get back on that field so I can provide for him,” Jones said. “That’s just a whole bunch of responsibility, seeing him and my girlfriend and providing for them.


“There’s a lot on my plate, and it helps me to work better.”


Maybe then Daddy can play with Chad Jr., who understands he has to wait for the “boo-boo” — the one he gently strokes if he hits it by accident — to heal.



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Former Baseball, Football Standout Recognized During Game




Being cheered during a game at LSU is nothing new to former LSU safety Chad Jones.


Saturday, he was cheered for another reason: simply for being able to walk out onto the field at all.


Jones received a rousing ovation when he was recognized on the Tiger Stadium field between the first and second quarters of Saturday’s LSU-Tennessee game.


Jones was seriously injured June 25 in a horrific car crash on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans when he lost control of his 2010 Range Rover and struck a streetcar pole. Jones underwent nearly seven hours of emergency surgery to repair multiple fractures to both legs, plus arteries and nerves in his legs that were exposed by the crash.


Jones watched as of some of his greatest moments as an LSU football player and LSU pitcher were shown on the stadium’s replay screens.


Jones helped LSU win the 2007 BCS national championship, and he helped the Tigers win the 2009 College World Series.


As he walked stiffly off the field, still wearing a knee-high boot on his left leg, he exchanged gestures with his former teammates and received a hug from LSU coach Les Miles.


Jones was a third-round draft pick in April by the New York Giants and has not ruled out trying to eventually play professional football.



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