In early 2018, just a few weeks following the Tua-to-DeVonta 2nd & 26 heroics in the Crimson Tide’s stunning national title victory over Georgia, Gordon Jones – father of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones – penned a prophetic note to his son, who was then Alabama’s third-string quarterback.
One may ask: What’s so unusual about a father sending his college-age son a note of encouragement? Not a thing.
But what if it’s a four-page, single-spaced list of goals in outline format, the contents of which just may have sparked Mac’s stellar Alabama football career?
For Gordon, Mac, and the entire Alabama football universe, what a difference “A Vision for Mac” made.
My new book, HISTORY MADE, takes an inside look at Alabama’s 2020 national championship and features not only the complete “Vision for Mac,” but Mac’s impassioned and thoughtful foreword. The two writings combine to form a blueprint for any young athlete’s success.
In his HISTORY MADE foreword, Mac writes:
… For me, The Process manifested itself many years earlier as I sat third string behind two Alabama greats, Jalen and Tua. It was January 2018, in our 4th Quarter offseason program. I wasn’t sure how I would evolve here. What is my place on this team? Can I compete? Well, the answer came in the form of a call from another championship-winning Jones athlete, my dad Gordon … He knew me and knew how I was feeling. Both my parents did. It is kind of the Jones family intuition. He had an idea, well more of a list, The List. A list of goals. Now that I think of it, a “process” … It was a guide, a process to being not just great, but National Championship quarterback great …
And “National Championship quarterback great” he became.
One may think that Mac’s ascension to a national title quarterback was some sort of rags-to-riches journey. But how could anyone who earned offers from multiple Southeastern Conference schools be considered “rags”? Not a chance.
Following a stellar career at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., the four-star was an early Kentucky commitment, but when a late offer from Nick Saban and Alabama came in, it was off to Tuscaloosa for the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Mac. In what some consider the greatest signing class in Alabama football history, he joined fellow freshmen Christopher Allen, Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy, Alex Leatherwood, Xavier McKinney, Dylan Moses, LaBryan Ray, Brian Robinson Jr., Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith, Tua Tagovailoa, and Jedrick Wills Jr. in Tuscaloosa.
While many of these young stars played substantial roles in the Tide’s 2017 national championship run, Mac was redshirted. Officially, he was the team’s third-string quarterback behind Jalen Hurts – the previous season’s SEC Offensive Player of the Year – and the phenom Tagovailoa, whose heart-stopper against Georgia at season’s end forever sealed his fate in Alabama lore.
The impetus for Gordon to write his “A Vision for Mac” was to lift Mac up in a time of uncertainty and to give him a game plan for the remainder of his career. Throughout the 2017 season, he’d ridden the pine behind Jalen and Tua, and the prospects of playing time down the road appeared bleak. Gordon’s thinking was that Mac need a shot of encouragement, a pick-me-up for which fathers are so well-known.
Enter “A Vision for Mac,” or as Mac calls it, “The List,” which no doubt changed the young man’s life.
“My concern was that there were a lot of people who had told Mac that he would never play at Alabama,” Gordon says. “He had committed to Kentucky, and everybody felt he’d start right away there as a freshman. They’d say, ‘Why go to Alabama … you’re never going to see the playing field … you should go to another school like Kentucky and play right away.’
“I was afraid that he was going to start believing those folks and develop this mindset that he was not that good. So, I thought he should have some goals as something else to focus on other than the drumbeat he’d been hearing about being the third-string quarterback.”
Third-string quarterback? Behind Jalen and Tua? Are you kidding?
“At the end of the day, Mac was the third-string quarterback, but what a quarterback room!” Gordon adds. “Those guys ahead of him were Heisman finalists, and eventually Mac became a Heisman finalist. There was no shame whatsoever in being third-string at Alabama, yet he still had to deal with the folks who said he’d never play there.”
Gordon knew Mac could play for the Tide, but the bottom line was, could he? Enter Scott Cochran, Alabama’s strength and conditioning guru.
“I really have to give some credit to Coach Cochran, because early on – even during Mac’s freshman year – he came to me and said, ‘Your son’s got it. I guarantee he’s gonna get on the field. I see him in practice, I see him in the weight room, I see him inside and outside the building.’
“Coach Cochran was very goal-oriented, so when I began writing ‘A Vision for Mac,’ I wrote it in such a way that it would dovetail into what Coach Cochran was telling Mac every day.”
Over a weekend in early 2018, with Mac’s well-being in mind, Gordon’s “A Vision for Mac” was penned.
“The basic premise of it was, ‘Where do you want to go?’” Gordon says. “I told him, ‘This is to keep you focused, especially for those days when things aren’t going right, or there are obstacles in your way, or when you don’t play well.’ It was written to keep his eyes on the goal and to keep himself focused on where he wanted to be.”
Gordon left no stones unturned in crafting the challenges to Mac, with the main points being:
- Physical Goals
- Academic Goals
- Mental Goals
- Objective Goals
Under each category were multiple subtopics, and in many cases, sub-subtopics, and even sub-sub-subtopics. In all, more than a hundred items.
A few nuggets:
- Set goal to be best recruiter for the University
- Take opportunities when offered to do different activities with different players; go to their church, eat a meal with them, schedule workout at same time
- Participate in more volunteer activities
- Continue to do ride-alongs
- Film study, evaluating your own performance with critical eye
- Are you exhibiting a confident appearance?
- You have the “IT” factor. No coach can teach or develop this factor; you have to learn to use it.
- Social (life) is good … it is college … it is a good release for you and your teammates but do not make the social a priority
- Girlfriends are hard at this time. If you get one, make sure that she contributes to your emotional stability versus instability
How about these for some eye-opening goals? “SEC Player of the Week.” “Heisman.” “NFL.” They’re all on the List, and keep in mind that all were penned when Mac was a redshirted freshman behind fellow freshman Tua and sophomore Jalen. Heisman? NFL? For a skinny redshirt backing up two of the greatest quarterbacks in Alabama football history? Really?
No question, in writing “A Vision for Mac,” Gordon turned out to be some sort of Nostradamus.
“The List was to be more of a comprehensive list of everything, rather than zeroing in on one factor,” Gordon says. “I included everything that I thought would go into making Mac a complete quarterback. I tried to look at his career long range rather than close-up.
“My sending him these goals obviously turned out to be very beneficial for him, and it was consistent with my own philosophy toward having a vision of where you want to go and keeping your eye on it.”
Gordon’s list of goals being “beneficial” for Mac is clearly an understatement. In just one season as a starter, Mac shattered many Alabama passing records and became one of the most decorated single-season players in Crimson Tide history.
Statistically, Mac’s 2020 performance was jaw-dropping:
- He finished with 311 completions in 402 attempts with only four interceptions. His 4,500 yards set Alabama’s single-season passing record, and his 41 passing touchdowns over 13 games were only two away from Tua Tagovailoa’s school record 43 in 2018 (over 15 games).
- His 77.4 percent completion rate set a new NCAA single-season record.
- His 203.06 passer efficiency rating set a new NCAA single-season record.
- Of Alabama’s 10 games in history in which a quarterback threw for more than 400 yards, Mac owns half of them (Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio State).
Equally impressive were Mac’s post-season honors:
- Davey O’Brien Award
- Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award
- Manning Award
- Consensus First Team All-American
- First Team All-American (AFCA)
- First Team All-American (Associated Press)
- First Team All-American (The Sporting News)
- First Team All-American (Walter Camp)
- First Team All-American (ESPN.com)
- First Team All-American (Pro Football Focus)
- First Team All-American (USA Today)
- Second Team All-American (FWAA)
- Second-Team All-American (CBS Sports)
- First Team All-SEC (Coaches)
- First Team All-SEC (Associated Press)
- Heisman Trophy (Finalist, finished 3rd)
- Maxwell Award (Finalist)
- Walter Camp Player of the Year (Finalist)
- CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year
- SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Not to be missed from writing “A Vision for Mac,” though, was Gordon’s (and wife Holly’s) display of love and affection for their son. Much more important than the Physical Goals, Mental Goals, Academic Goals, etc. mentioned in the challenge, Gordon’s “tough love” approach to Mac showed they cared, especially at a time when their son was at his lowest point.
The result of this “Vision”? Mac regained his confidence, set historical records for the Crimson Tide, and has earned a starting job in the NFL as a rookie.
My new book, HISTORY MADE, describes in detail Mac’s 2020 legacy at Alabama, including his foreword and the entire “A Vision for Mac.” HISTORY MADE, featuring more than 150 images from the 2020 season (including more than 25 behind-the-scenes photos) will forever be the definitive historical journey of Alabama’s dream season.
HISTORY MADE, the only officially-licensed book on the 2020 national championship, will soon be available in bookstores and can be ordered online now at Amazon.com, Booksamillion.com, and Whitman.com.
Coming in November – Jeff Allen: Alabama’s secret weapon during 2020