Once a Warrior, always a Warrior: Alabaster comes together in memory of Chayse Jones

Published 10:13 am Friday, October 28, 2022

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Walking onto the football field for his first official football practice as a member of the Thompson third-grade football field, Chayse Jones didn’t know what to expect.

Then, the drills began. Jones, not having been a part of the game before, was trying to figure out what to do when head coach Deron Barnes walked up to him and said, “It aint nothing, it’s all mental. You can do this.”

From that point forward, Jones found his favorite catchphrase—“It aint nothing coach.”

“Every time we did anything from that point forward—sprints, drills, anything—he would run around the field yelling, ‘It aint nothing coach,’” Barnes said.

That fun-loving demeanor of trying to make everyone else smile was the true intention of the young third-grader before he tragically passed away following complications suffered from a car accident on Sunday, Oct. 23.

In the wake of his loss, hearts shattered into a million pieces throughout his family, throughout his team and throughout multiple communities.

But, as Barnes said, “God doesn’t slip on a banana peel. He doesn’t make mistakes. Everything is intentional and for a reason.”

And just a few days later, the reach of Jones became evident and the impact he had on so many undeniable.

Just three days after his passing, the team played its next football game against Spain Park with heavy hearts.

Throughout the night, however, Jones was there giving them strength. Family, friends, coaches from Alabaster and other communities, and even people who had never even met him all flooded to Larry Simmons Stadium to honor him.

Ribbons were worn, a balloon release celebrated his life at halftime and the team picked up a “homegoing” win for Chayse in special fashion.

“We were not expecting the turnout that it was,” Chayse’s father Reginald Jones said. “To only be here a year and for this community to treat us like we’ve been with them their whole lives. It means more than they’ll ever know. It wasn’t just Alabaster, but other communities coming out as well to show him love and support.”

That support is something Reginald said is helping the family get through such a difficult time.

“It’s been unbearable at times, but our family has been right with us helping us through, and it’s special to see all of the people he touched reaching out,” he said. “We’re trying to hold it together and be there for each other, and the support is helping.”

It was also difficult for Barnes, who got the call on Monday from Reginald that Chayse had passed away.

“For myself as the head coach and coaching Chayse, it has been tumultuous,” he said. “Every different type of emotion you can think of. When I received a call on Monday from his father, that’s what I continue to replay in my head is how his father relayed the news to me. He told me how he was having to be tough for his wife and daughter. That call with me, he was able to release all of that.”

Barnes then had to figure out how to tell the team, something that he admittedly prayed about over and over again.

“How am I going to deliver this news to my team?” he said. “As soon as I pulled up to the practice field on Monday night, all I could see is him running around the field. I shared with them the news that I had gotten from his father. My kids, man, they took it really hard. I didn’t think they understood or death resonated with them, but they took it hard. Everyone was in tears.”

Barnes, however, turned the moment into a moment of encouragement for each player and their parents to share how Chayse impacted their life and how they could carry on his legacy.

“We were all broken,” he said. “But we started to embrace each other and share memories of big Chayse together.”

One of his favorite memories mentioned was Chayse jumping into the hudles after practices and games to break things down.

“He’d do it on dinosaurs,” Barnes said. “Hed’ get in the middle of the team and say, ‘Dinosaurs on three, 1-2-3, dinosaurs!’ When we shared that story, everybody started laughing and we started to get joy out of the person Chayse was through all of the smiles we’ll have forever because of him.”

Then, two days later, the team honored him with a thrilling victory.

With No. 50—Chayse’s number—scattered throughout the stadium, the score was tied 25-25 for a total of 50 points with 38 seconds left.

“I’m no profit, but it was fourth down with a score equaling 50 and we needed that push to get over the hump,” Barnes said. “He got us that push and we win the game. It’s crazy. Everything that happens is ordained by God. That wasn’t a coincidence, it was confirmation.”

It led to a lot of emotion after the game, but Barnes said it was amazing to see them channel everything and push through.

“I’m amazed at the support,” he said. “We met with the mayor and his principal, Warrior Express, and coaches from Thompson, Spain Park, Hoover, Helena and other places all wanted to be a part of the support. I feel that. I feel the support and everyone wanting to embrace him and honor him.”

That was Chayse’s impact on his team and many others, and all in his first year playing football as a third grader.

“This was his first year every playing. He decided to give it a shot this summer. He went out there and gave it his all all the time,” Reginald said. “His mother encouraged him. Realizing it’s his first time, you wanted him to be good, but he gave it his all and was a great teammate. That’s what mattered. He ended up loving it. He read books about it and loved his teammates and coaches. He just ended up loving everything about it.”

Reginald said Chayse’s love for life and the want to make people happy whenever he was around them was infectious.

“He was always happy. He wanted everyone around him to be happy,” Reginald said. “He loved going to after school care. He loved his third grade teachers this year and his second grade teacher last year when he started in January. Ever since he got here, he’s been trying to touch students and make them smile.”

Now, they’ll always be able to just that, because if anyone he crossed paths with ever has a bad day or is struggling to smile, all they have to do is take a second and say to themselves, “It aint nothing!”