Age has no hold on Roughriders’ Herb Jones

5/19/2017, 8:59 p.m.
Don’t let the high mileage fool you. Herb Jones has plenty of tread left. Jones is a top reason the ...
Herb Jones James Haskins/Richmond Free Press

Don’t let the high mileage fool you. Herb Jones has plenty of tread left.

Jones is a top reason the Richmond Roughriders have run roughshod over the competition during the team’s first season in the Arena Pro Football league.

The shuffleboard crowd will have to wait for the former Virginia Union University (Class of 2007) All-CIAA receiver.

At 32, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Jones remains a feared pass catcher, as evidenced by his seven touchdowns in the Roughriders’ bone-crushing 5-0 start.

Action continues Saturday, May 20, when the River City Raiders from St. Charles, Mo., trek to the Richmond Coliseum for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Like it or not, Jones accepts “ol’ folk” status on a team roster with an average age of 25.

“Actually, Herb is older than I am,” 29-year-old Coach Mook “Hollywood” Zimmerman said with a chuckle.

“He can still move it, though. He can definitely move it.”

Asked about 40-yard dash times, Zimmerman referred to Jones as “a gamer.”

“I don’t really know his 40,” said Coach Zimmerman. “But Herb is one of those guys with better game speed than stopwatch speed.”

Jones played with the Richmond Raiders from 2010 to 2015, establishing franchise records for catches (270), yardage (3,000-plus) and touchdowns (50).

The Raiders folded following the 2015 season, leaving Jones to skip 2016 — “I chilled out,” he said — while the new Richmond Roughriders was formed.

So why does a man in his 30s risk his bones and joints in a full contact, collision sport with minimal financial gain as incentive?

“Two reasons,” Jones said without hesitation. “First, I still have the itch. Second, I never won a championship with the Raiders, even though we came close. I want a ring before I go.”  

With a VUU degree in criminal justice, Jones serves as a one-on-one counselor for students with special needs at Huguenot High School. He also has helped coach the Huguenot Falcons junior varsity football squad.

Known as “Agent 5” for wearing the No. 5 jersey first for the Raiders and now for the Roughriders, Jones went to Virginia Beach’s Kellam High School, where he was lightly recruited.

It was by pure chance he enrolled at VUU.  

“To be honest, I’d never heard of Union. I didn’t even know where it was,” he recalled.

That changed when former VUU Assistant Coach Willie Gillus spotted Jones at an exposure camp after his senior year at Kellam.

With his long strides and sure hands, Jones quickly established himself, first, as a walk-on and, later, as a scholarship player at VUU under head Coach Willard Bailey.

In four seasons with the Panthers, from 2003 through 2006, Jones snagged 119 passes for 1,935 yards and 23 touchdowns. His most productive year was in 2005, with 50 catches, 860 yards and nine touchdowns.

After VUU, Jones dabbled in playing with area semipro teams such as the Vipers before actually signing a contract. He also is no stranger to the flag football field.

Jones started his Roughriders tenure with flying black and green colors when he hauled in four touchdown aerials in the season opener in early April with an 84-8 home win over the Birmingham Outlawz of Alabama.

“I try and bring some veteran leadership, some arena experience, to a young team,” he said.

Among those he has schooled is quarterback Jim Laughrea, who made the rookie mistake of running hard into the restraining wall that surrounds arena gridirons.

“I had to tell Jimmy the wall is undefeated,” he said with a laugh. “He’s been more careful since.”

Not only is the wall undefeated, but so is Father Time.

Jones is too shrewd to test the wall. But at least for now, he’s keeping a full stride ahead of Father Time and heading for the end zone.