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FIRST-PERSON: Faith, belief in WKU kept Jones on the 'Hill'

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BOWLING GREEN (KT) - Juwuan Jones could have left.

He could have exited Western Kentucky University when the coaching staff wanted to turn the All-State linebacker from Georgia into a defensive end, or when he was told the first season he wouldn't play ad redshirt.

Or maybe when as a sophomore he started seven games and came off the bench in others.

How about after he had established himself as a dominating 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive end and wanted to see if the even brighter lights of bigger colleges would provide more opportunity?

Nope.

Unlike the revolving door that now exists in and out of college sports programs, Jones stayed the course - in good times, and bad.

He may be a graduate senior on the Hilltoppers from Sugar Hill, Georgia, but make no doubt about this - for Jones, quick with a smile off the field and a crushing hit on the field - Bowling Green is home.

"I love Bowling Green. I honestly can say that. They love the Tops. You can go anywhere and it's 'Go Tops,'" Jones said. "I feel like God put me here for a reason."

Not only has Jones immersed himself into the football program, but in the community.

He has been named to many preseason lists for performance on the field, but it's more than that. He's been named to the 2022 Wuerffeul Trophy Watch List that honors players for what they do in their communities.

The award recognizes college football players who serve others, celebrate their positive impact on society and inspire greater service in the world, according to a news release.

For Jones - a two-time graduate from WKU with a bachelor's degree in sports management and master's degree in special education - the role of a student-athlete runs much deeper.

He often serves in the community, especially with children receiving special education.

The relationships he's built outside of football mean a lot to Jones, who has started every game the last three seasons (39 games).

"Football doesn't last forever and relationships are big in life," he said.

That's why he's embraced a commitment to serving others and being a difference-maker in the lives of others.

"He's what college sports are about," WKU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said. "He's a great football player and just as good of a person."

Over his WKU career, Jones has had 17.5 sacks, 30 tackles for lost yardage and 180 tackles, including 73 solo stops.

He finished last season with 45 tackles for the year, including 6.5 for loss and 3.5 sacks. Jones enjoyed his best game of the season in a 38-35 road loss at Army when he finished with nine tackles and a sack.

After the season, he was named a CoSIDA Second Team Academic All-American and to C-USA's All-Academic Team.

Now, the final season of college football is on the horizon for Jones. It's one he's looking for as he's stayed the course and found a new home.

"I feel like if you start something, you finish the race and I'm big on that," he said. "The bar is always set high and I always try and put other people before myself and personal accolades.

"There's a lot of circumstances in life that you can't control, but you can control your mindset and outlook," he added.

When WKU opens the season Aug. 27 at home against Austin Peay, it will mark the 52nd career game for Jones - a mark not many in Division I college football can duplicate.

In a college sports world of players continually leaving one school for another, the game needs more players like Juwuan Jones, who stay the course, earn degrees and found a new place to call home.

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