By: Monty Mosher
Brian Jones probably imagined something else when he joined the Toronto Argonauts from the Acadia Axemen a few years back.
The former AUS football most valuable player had an outstanding career catching passes for the Axemen and looked to do the same in the pro ranks.
It's been bittersweet. Injuries slowed his first CFL season last year. There were up and downs in his second season with the Argos.
As he was about to play in the Grey Cup against the Calgary Stampeders in Ottawa last month, fate got in the way again.
Regrets? Perhaps a few. But a championship ring as a keepsake from the 105th Grey Cup will make them a distant memory soon enough.
The Grand Lake native and Lockview Dragons graduate will have his time with the championship trophy. He hasn't finalized those plans.
His run to a title in the CFL title has been anything but easy. It's been frustrating and disappointing at times and occasionally downright painful.
"It's been a great experience, and a very humbling experience," Jones said last week from Toronto. He'll be home in Nova Scotia this week.
"It's been a different road. But this is the sweetest berry you can eat. I'm very happy to be a Grey Cup champion. No one can take that away from me."
In 2014, Jones had 57 receptions, breaking the Acadia record for catches in a single season. He was the AUS nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top varsity player in the nation.
He had 45 catches the following year on an Axemen team that had its struggles on offence.
Six-foot-four and powerful, Jones drew the interest of pro teams on both sides of the border in his draft year. The Argos selected him in the first round, fourth overall.
But a wrist injury delayed the start of his first season. In the end he finished with 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.
He didn't record a single catch in 2017. He played in nine games, getting most of the work on special teams, where he had six tackles.
He was slated to be on the active roster for the Grey Cup. But an ankle injury during practice that week kept him out.
"There was a lot of stuff going on this year," said the 23-year-old Jones. "This year I learned a lot about the business side of everything, and I did deal with some injuries.
"It taught me a lot about myself. I learned a lot about how to deal with adversity and how to deal with things when they don't go your way. But ultimately it shapes you as a person. It gives me a different kind of motivation going into next year."
With that in mind, the 2018 season has begun.
"Everybody's game needs work. Nobody has a perfect game. There are things I can work on in the off-season that maybe I need to focus on more.
"I've always been a hard worker. I've always wanted the most for myself. But one of the hardest things about being a pro is sometimes you put everything into it and they are looking for something else. It's up to you to change your game in whatever way you need to."
It's hard to sit out. He's the first to admit it. He never allowed himself to think he wasn't part of the team.
"If you think that way you dig yourself a deeper hole,' he said. "I'm not saying it was easy. It never was. There were some tough times."
Of all the hurts, missing the Grey Cup may have been the worst. He was practising punt coverage two days before the game when he rolled his ankle.
"I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason," he said. "Maybe I'll never know what the reason was behind it.
"It was tough because you put so much into it and this is the biggest game and the biggest stage probably of my football career. As soon as it happened I knew I wasn't going to be able to walk it off. The whole season was a roller-coaster – mentally and physically."
Argos coach Marc Trestman had a line that resonated with Jones. Trestman said that everyone loves football, but football loves no one.
It is a sad fact that football seasons, and careers, end suddenly and without pity.
"But if you dwell on the past it can only put you in a place you don't need to be," said Jones.
Jones got to Acadia during the season and he keeps in close contact with head coach Jeff Cummins and Elliott Richardson, Acadia's strength and conditioning coach.
The season ended on a down note for the Axemen after a one-sided loss to the powerhouse Western Mustangs in the Uteck Bowl, but the Axemen won a conference title in dramatic fashion over Saint Mary's.
Jones watched it all unfold from a distance.
"I'm proud of the guys," he said. "The end result was a tough one, but those are all my brothers down there."