Reakwon Jones was on the phone with his stepdad when a tree fell on his family’s home. While Jones was safe and sound in Bloomington, the worst of Hurricane Michael was ravaging his hometown of Lynn Haven, Florida, just a few miles outside of Panama City.
“While everything was going on, I was able to call them every few hours to check in,” Jones said. “It broke my heart because I couldn’t be there. My mom told me that my little sister was crying the whole time.”
Just three days after the hurricane displaced his mother, stepdad and siblings, Jones took the field and started at linebacker in IU’s homecoming game against Iowa. With his family’s situation weighing heavily on his mind, Jones turned to linebackers coach Kane Wommack, head coach Tom Allen and various teammates for assistance.
When it was finally time to take on the Hawkeyes, Jones did the best he could to focus on football.
“When I go on the field, I flush everything out, and I try to go out there and do what’s best for this football team,” Jones said. “I want to give my everything. I got to my teammates, and I feel like that’s what I did that week.”
That game didn’t go the way Jones, or any of his teammates, wanted it to. But after a crushing defeat, some good news finally made its way to him. Jones’s family was able to leave Florida and was staying with relatives in Alabama.
They were safe, but a financial burden has come as a result.
Later in the week, Jones was the recipient of another piece of welcome news. On Oct. 19 before IU played Penn State, Jones’s mother, stepdad and two siblings piled into a car and made the long drive to Bloomington. They arrived just in time to see Jones during The Walk, which was the first time he’d seen his family since January.
“I think us being able to see each other on Saturday was really emotional,” Jones said. “We all needed it. That just made everybody feel better.”
Jones was just thankful to see his family, knowing very well what the hurricane could have done to them.
“The hurricane just changes everything," Jones said. "It could have been the last time I saw my family. I thought about that and that’s what kind of broke my heart, but I’m just glad they’re OK.”
After the game, Jones’s family still needed a place to stay. Since the family couldn’t afford a hotel room, the four of them squeezed into Jones’s one-bedroom apartment that normally just housed him and his two dogs.
“We just hung out, had fun and caught up,” Jones said. “It’s really hard to focus when you haven’t seen your family in forever, and I was able to see them, lay eyes on them and see that they were all OK. My little brother and sister did not want leave.”
With the help of IU coaches and compliance staff, the NCAA approved a GoFundMe page, which Jones has promoted on both Twitter and Facebook.
“I’m not looking for big donors,” Jones said. “We’re grateful for whatever someone can donate. We’re just trying to find a way to restart and move on in life and put this in the past because no one wants to hang on to this forever.”
Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.