Sheddrick Risper has known Cameron Jones for some time, starting when Risper was the head football coach at Weaver Middle School and Jones was playing for the team.
Then the pair hooked up again in the fall as Risper took over as head coach at Westside, and Jones became his starting quarterback, bringing with him a 4.0 grade point average, assorted math competition championships and SAT scores far above and beyond normal.
“He’s like the ‘Wow’ factor at the school,” Risper said. “Kids looked up to him, they went to him for help, and he’d help them.
“Kids like him, when it comes to doing it in the classroom and out of the classroom, don’t come around too often.”
For his perfect grades as well as starting roles in football and baseball at Westside, Jones is The Telegraph’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
He’ll start classes at Georgia next month having pretty much conquered the academic and athletics offerings at his high school alma mater.
“He’s a very sociable kid, very likable,” Risper said. “He acts at least seven years older than he is. The kid’s never made a ‘B’ since I’ve known him.”
Jones confirms the accuracy of Risper’s memory.
“I never had a ‘B’ in my life,” he said. “I’ve had a couple close ones. My lowest ‘A’ was a 91 in high school, chemistry. It came down to the wire.”
Jones admitted that high school came easy for him, and he knows that he is fortunate to have a brain that works the way it does.
Jones is as competitive in the classroom as he is on the field, the former drive coming early in his high school career when he finished his first few semesters ranked first in his class.
That kept going, until the first semester of his senior year, when the class’s valedictorian and salutatorian would be decided. Jones started the semester with the slightest of edges over Vatsal Patel, and the two were in a physics class.
Patel made a 100 in the final, Jones an 80, and Patel was the valedictorian.
“He beat me by two-tenths,” Jones said. “They told us it was the closest race in Westside history. I was disappointed, to say the least. I didn’t want to show it too much, but I was very upset.”
There was no ranking for the second semester of his senior year, so he had to settle for No. 2 and being the salutatorian.
Still, it’s impressive for somebody who has been a multi-year starter in baseball at pitcher, third base and the outfield and took over at quarterback as a senior.
Jones will major in biology with long-term career plans in orthodontics.
He is the son of Derek and Lisa Jones. Derek Jones has been commuting on weekends from Gainesville, Fla., since May of 2009 after a promotion to regional manager for Modern Woodmen of the World insurance, and Lisa Jones works downtown at First Choice Primary Care.
And father is as much a Georgia fan as is son, which makes living in the middle of Gators country tenuous when wearing red and black.
Cameron Jones considered attending another Georgia rival, Georgia Tech, as well as Florida and Georgia Southern.
“My junior year, I was trying to get into Georgia Tech,” said Jones, who said a 1,700 SAT with a 4.0 was the standard for admission to Tech. “I knew if I could get into Georgia Tech, I could get into any school I wanted to.”
Jones scored a 1,760 and an 1,820 on his SATs, cruising past the necessary numbers. He confessed that it would’ve been tough as a Georgia fan to go to Tech.
“I probably still would have traveled to Athens on Saturday mornings for games,” he said.
In just one year starting at quarterback, Jones helped Westside to an 11-2 record, although he shared time late in the season with Daniel Duhart.
“It was fun,” Jones said. “I wish we could have ended up going farther. My junior season was a big letdown. We lost in the third round, wanted to get further.”
Things were rougher in the spring on the baseball diamond, where the Seminoles — with Jones as the only senior — struggled to only two wins.
“Last season (2009), we had 14 seniors,” Jones said. “It was me and one other junior on the team. They all graduated. One of my buddies was the other junior, and (Brad Freeman) left and went to Howard.
“It was tough, trying to be a senior and be a leader and to lose all the time, it makes it tough.”
Risper knew back when he was the head coach at Weaver that Jones had what it took to be an impact player in high school, and he got a chance to see it first-hand when he was hired to replace Robert Davis.
“We always knew he was a smart kid,” Risper said. “We were just waiting on his athleticism to catch up with his brain and knowledge of the game.”
The transition from Davis to Risper made for a unique senior season for Jones.
“Coach ‘Spoon’ is more energetic,” Jones said of Risper. “He made practices like games, like competition. He was running around, jumping around, making us compete. A lot more high energy.”
But Fridays were business.
“(Risper) was a completely different person,” Jones said. “You could tell. He was all business. The Thursday before game day, he’ll tell us, ‘You try to come up to me and make a joke tomorrow in school, be ready, I’m gonna hit you in the stomach.’ ”
Jones never tested Risper on Fridays. Again, smart kid.
Jones will play intramural sports at Georgia and is considering trying to walk on to the baseball team at some point.
He’ll take quite an academic resume to Athens.
Jones received scholarships from the Macon Touchdown Club and the National Football Foundation to go with assorted academic scholarships.
Jones was named scholar-athlete by the Macon Touchdown Club and NFF and a Star student.
He is an American Mathematics Competition 12 winner. That competition is, according to its website, “25 question, 75 minute multiple choice examination in secondary school mathematics containing problems which can be understood and solved with pre-calculus concepts.”
And Jones likes math.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “That’s my best subject. It’s by far my favorite.”
Jones knows his streak of perfect grades will be seriously challenged immediately upon arrival at Georgia. He recently attended orientation.
“They say that the chemistry program there is extremely tough,” Jones said. “I’m going to have to work, because they said that it’s really tough. It’ll be tough getting through it.”
Jones isn’t embarrassed about his academic accomplishments, but he does joke a little bit that he’s not sure how he was so blessed.
He comes from a smart family, but neither his parents nor sister Jade Jones went through high school with such a sterling academic record.
“My dad’s OK at math, my mom not so much,” he said. “They’ve told me that neither one of them was brilliant in school. I don’t know how it got to me.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but it really does come easy to me. I don’t know what it is.”
Jade Jones is a third-year nursing student at Macon State, and Cameron Jones said she did have to hear a little bit at home about his success in school.
“It had to be a little tough,” he said. “She was the older sibling, but she was a good student.”
Jones’ speech as salutatorian dealt with independence and motivation.
“Do what you want to do, go to school where you want to go to school,” he said. “Have fun and have goals in mind. Know that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
“That’s basically how my high school life went. There’s no way I came in (to high school) with the expectation of (being) salutatorian or the top of my class, going to UGA. But it was my dream.”