Growing up in a homeless shelter, there are so many times when you ask yourself why. Why do other kids have new shoes, clothes and toys—everything they want—while you're homeless and struggling.
Hi. I'm James Jones. Before I became a Super Bowl champion as a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers and before I was a San Jose State Spartan, I was a little boy growing up in Bay Area homeless shelters. I've never forgotten where I started, and I thank God everyday that people like my mother, coaches and professors saw my potential and chose to help me become the man I am today. I'm writing to ask you to do the same thing by supporting San Jose State University Athletics. There are nearly 500 student-athletes whose ability to attend SJSU depends entirely on private contributions. Your gift will support a program in which the academic success of these student-athletes is just as important as their prowess on the field.
A Small Gift makes a Big Difference
One of my few toys as a child was a football, and I carried it everywhere. I loved football, and while I knew there were camps and teams for kids, I also knew my mother couldn't afford them. Instead, I played football with kids at the shelters, where I lived on and off from the age of five. One day, a shelter volunteer who was a coach for a youth league football team saw me playing football and recognized the passion I had for the sport. That man, a person just like you, offered to pay for me to play Pop Warner football.
That small action had a big impact on my life. The football field became a place where I could find peace from the uncertainty swirling around me. Football got me through those early years. Eventually, my mother and I found a stable home and I started at San Jose Gunderson High School where I continued to have success through football. When it came time to start thinking about where I would go to college, I had options.
I chose San Jose State because the coaches, staff and faculty truly cared about me as more than just a football player—they cared about me as a student. One professor in particular, Iris Jerke, took an interest in my academic success. She checked in with me and kept me on track with my classes. Professor Jerke chose to be a mentor to me, but it wasn't until later that I found out why.
At the end of my senior year, she explained how during my freshman orientation, one of her colleagues had said there was no way I would make it past my first year. For Professor Jerke, that comment was a challenge, and she took it upon herself to make sure I succeeded as a student. She didn't need to; she did it out of the kindness of her heart. Like so many SJSU teachers and professors, Professor Jerke truly cared about her students. For SJSU student- athletes, the end goal isn't only a winning record—it's also a college education.
Drive, Discipline and Determination
She wasn't the only person who helped me thrive, either. Coming to San Jose State was in many ways a shock. My natural gift for football was all I needed to rise to the top of my high school team. San Jose State was a different situation.
If I wanted to succeed, I needed to work out harder, practice more and focus on my goals. My coaches at San Jose State helped me learn those lessons, and the hard work eventually paid off. In my final season as a Spartan, I caught 70 passes for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns. At the New Mexico Bowl that same year, I was named offensive MVP. Then in the spring of 2007, drawing on what I learned at SJSU, I was drafted in the third round by the Green Bay Packers. Earlier this year, we became the Super Bowl champions.
I made it to this point in my life for two reasons. First, I never stopped striving for my dreams. When I work with underprivileged kids in San Jose and Wisconsin, I always remind them to never stop reaching for their goals.
The second reason I am where I am today is because of people like you who decided they wanted to make a difference in a young man's life. I urge you to give to San Jose State Athletics. They made a difference in my life, not just as a football player, but as a student and as a person. They will do the same for others, but only with support from donors committed to making a difference. Please give today!
James Jones SJSU Alumnus and Super Bowl XLV Champion
P.S. Your gift to SJSU Athletics will make a difference! Most San José State student-athletes won't win the Super Bowl, but all of them, with your support, have a chance to get a great education. Give securely online. Go Spartans!