As youngster growing up in Miami, Florida, Marque Jones made summer trips north to Wilmington.
Visiting his dad’s hometown aunts, uncles and cousins was fun for a while. He remembers running across the Wilmington College campus and playing in the basement at Pyle Center.
Jones, 67, even trekked through neighborhood backyards from the college to J.W. Denver Williams Jr. Memorial Park to watch family play baseball.
Eventually, though, like with any youngster, the long trip became tedious.
“Why you dragging us up here … nobody wants to go to Wilmington,” said Jones, whose father Tom was a standout athlete at Wilmington High School and a football All-American at Florida A&M University. “We don’t want to come here. I even said I’d never live in Wilmington.”
Jones realizes now the error of his ways.
“That’s what I tell God, ‘Never say never’,” Jones said.
Ironic how things work out.
Jones, the tax commissioner for the city of Wilmington, is now in his 50th year with the Wilmington College football program, first as a player, then as a coach. Arriving at the tender age of 17 from southern Florida, Jones can’t think of any other place he’d rather be the past 50 years.
“I love it here,” he said. “It worked out great for me. I have my life up here, got my grand-kids, I’m not going anywhere. I had a great time growing up (in Miami). I have no desire to go back.”
Jones, now a volunteer coach for Wilmington College, dressed for his final game of the 2022 season last Saturday at Ohio Northern University.
Jones struggled as a freshman football player at WC, but made his mark in junior varsity games before putting together solid seasons as a sophomore and junior with the varsity. His senior season was wrecked with injury, a knee and shoulder being the primary trouble spots.
After graduating, Jones was selected for a master’s degree program at the University of Cincinnati. He also was asked by football coach Bill Ramseyer if he’d be interested in hanging around during the summer and fall to coach football, something Jones never seriously considered prior to the request.
“He said he couldn’t pay me but he could give me free room and board,” Jones remembers.
Jones accepted. The rest is history.
He first coached “whatever the team needed” before settling in as a wide receivers coach, he said. Holding the full-time receivers coach position for more than 30 years, Jones is now a volunteer coach for the program, still spending many afternoons on the practice field and at games.
That he’s managed to put in 50 years with Wilmington College is a surprise even to Jones.
“I’ve had enough,” he said. “I would say that a lot but then a Jon Cain would come. OK, I’m going to stay his four years … now I’ve had enough. Then there’s my son (Marque), then another guy comes in. We’ve always had great receivers so I couldn’t leave ‘em.”
Mark Huber is the sports editor for the Wilmington News Journal.