UCLA commit Nathaniel Jones battles back from ACL injury for St. John Bosco

The road back from injury has been a major challenge for Nathaniel Jones, but his drive and faith overcame every adversity. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser

They call him the Sand Beast for a reason.

Nathaniel Jones runs the sand relentlessly. He ran them before UCLA offered him a scholarship last year as a sophomore. He runs them continuously when he can now. One year after tearing an ACL — during St. John Bosco’s first game of 2019 — Jones shows no ill effects. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior running back had a team-high 10 carries for 33 yards in a 42-10 win over Mililani on Saturday.

“He’s a workhorse. Once ‘Sand Beast’ gets going, he turns into a beast. He’s super good,” quarterback DJ Uiagalelei said.

It was Jones’ busiest workload since the injury. Jones came close to scoring inside the 5, but Uiagalelei said he didn’t execute the handoff properly.

“That fumble was on me, I didn’t get the ball to him,” Uiagalelei said.

The fact that Jones is already back on the field, churning through defenses for tough yards is a victory in itself. It has been 12 months of uphill climbing.

“The mentality changed. My team helping me out. The fan base helping me out. Just staying focused and mentally keeping me right,” Jones said.

He also credits the training staff, his rehab support at SJB. The extra push never hurts, though Jones has been on a mission to get back at full strength. He says he’s almost there.

“You’ve got to keep going. I’ve got to help my team out, even when I’m stuck and not going so good, just got to keep fighting,” Jones said. “Today was kind of hectic in the first half. We just had to keep playing smart and not talk too much during the game.”

His style of running, and the way sophomores Rayshon Luke and Jabari Bates attack defenses, lends itself to consistency.

“I go straight downhill. I like hitting. I don’t like juking,” he said. “The two young sophomores are amazing. They help me out a lot. I learn from them.”

Jones has a simple message for other players who are on the path back from injury.

“It’s mental. Keep it right no matter what. Just stay focused. Even if you’re falling behind, keep your head straight and keep focused,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. It’s God’s plan.”

The hills. The straightaways. If there’s sand, Jones will be there. It sounds like the road work that the late, great Walter Payton did when he trained.

“I just keep going,” Jones said.


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