By Jim Gehman | Engagement Insider
Eight days after the Baltimore Colts traded Johnny Unitas to San Diego; they chose you in the first round of the 1973 draft. Feel added pressure replacing the living legend?
“I don’t think initially I felt any pressure. Of course, I held him in high esteem. I was a fan of the NFL since my father [Dub] played and then coached for the Cleveland Browns until I was a senior in high school. So I was pretty dialed in on what was going on. I thought it was a great place to go and an opportunity to play quarterback where a great one had recently just played.”
You had a great season in 1976 – passing for 3,104 yards and 24 touchdowns – and were named the league’s MVP. Fair to say that was the highlight of your 10-year career?
“The award was just kind of a byproduct of the success that we collectively had as a team. I had a pretty good run until I hurt my shoulder, and then it took me two years to get well. After I got that well, I had good performances there after. I’m not so sure that my best performing days were not later in my career. We just didn’t have near the team or near the success.”
You mentioned your dad was an assistant coach. Did you consider becoming a coach, too?
“Briefly. I was offered the opportunity to kind of be the offensive coordinator for the Rams (after spending my final season with Los Angeles in 1983). I just made the conscious decision that I had three children at the time and I had already started the lumber business that I’m working in now, and I say this without sounding ugly, coaches are there until they’re fired and then they move on. I just didn’t think that was a stable enough environment for my wife and I to raise our children.”
After deciding to return home to Louisiana to raise your family…
“I never left. I always came home during the offseason and worked and lived here in Ruston.”
What led to the lumber business [Mid-States Wood Preservers]?
“My father also owned a retail lumber yard at the time, and his best friend owned a couple saw mills in the area. I live in an area indigenous to a whole lot of southern pine timber production. My dad’s friend thought we ought to try it. So he and I and my brother partnered up.”
What do you enjoy about it?
“There’s a great sense of pride that I have that probably 70 families are living from this company that I built from scratch. And it afforded me the opportunity to make a living, to raise my family. I like being outside and the lumber business is kind of an inside-outside business.”
Do people in your town look at you as the ex-star quarterback, the man with the lumber company, or the guy who lives around the corner?
“I hope they look at me as just the guy around the corner. I was raised here. Those are sidebar components of who I am, but they certainly do not define me. I’ve been in this community for 62 years. So I’m the same bucktoothed kid that grew up right down the street to most everybody I know.”
So you prefer to be out of the football spotlight?
“I have kind of faded away by design; I’d guess you’d say. It was certainly one of the most enjoyable things that I have done. I take great pride in that, so I don’t have any animosity in that at all. Everybody goes through that swinging door coming in, they come out it, and where you go from there is your own business. I’ve elected to live a normal life here in northern Louisiana.”
What’s the best thing about being Bert Jones today?
“I guess being the fourth child of seven. Being the husband of my wife. Being the father of my (four) children (and five grandchildren). Running a business and enjoying life.”
The NFLPE "Where Are They Now?" series honors and celebrates our NFL Legends in their post-football success. Check back every two weeks for a new Q&A and learn more about our players in life after football.