Keenan’s mind is clear
Keenan Jones knows he can't afford to make mistakes, on or off the field.
He has the potential to be a great college football player, at one of the game's hardest positions. Jones is a 6-foot, 185-pound cornerback, and he possesses natural gifts of quickness and strength.
He was marked for stardom before he even got here.
But since arriving at the University of Hawaii before the start of the season last year, the junior college transfer has gotten onto the playing field for just three kickoffs in one early-season game.
Some of it is circumstance, some of it is his own doing -- or not doing.
Jones got off to a slow start last fall when he wasn't cleared to practice until the week of the season-opening game because of a paperwork clog with his junior college, the NCAA and UH. Coaches, fans and media eagerly anticipated his arrival and then his eligibility.
When Jones was finally cleared, he was too far behind to play on defense. Then back spasms kept him out of action after playing on kickoff coverage against UNLV in the second game of the year, and it was decided a medical redshirt would be sought.
A tumultuous offseason followed, including Jones being banned from spring practice for missing too many meetings and study sessions, and a night in jail after a loud argument with his girlfriend drew a call to police and resulted in Jones' arrest. He was released the next day, with no charges filed.
Coach June Jones, as well as teammates, have supported Keenan Jones, and the player is grateful for it. But he knows he must remain out of trouble and do well in summer school to keep his roster spot.
"I don't really want to comment," June Jones said Friday when asked about Keenan Jones' situation. "He's still on the team, but he needs to get all that (summer school) resolved."
Keenan Jones said he is intent on earning the staff's confidence and working his way into consideration for playing time in UH's crowded cornerback situation.
"I'm still competing for a position," he said before an informal workout last week. "Nothing's given to you. I just have to get out here and really show the coaches I'm focused."
Two smaller but technically proficient and tough players -- Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry, who are 5-foot-9 and 5-8 -- return as starting cornerbacks. And they might be pushed by talented incoming junior college transfers Ryan Mouton and Kenny Graham.
"Those guys (Lewis and Newberry) are adequate, and Myron is often better than adequate," defensive backs coach Rich Miano said. "It kind of bothers me when people say, 'If he was 6-feet tall he would've made that play.' It's true, but they make a lot of plays that a lot of 6-foot-tall guys don't make, because they know what they're doing.'"
Miano said Jones is gifted, but needs to improve his knowledge of the Warriors' defensive schemes.
"He shows glimpses, and his potential talent makes you salivate," the ninth-year UH assistant and former NFL safety said.
KEENAN JONES was eager last week to explain his arrest in March for alleged misdemeanor kidnapping and abuse of a household member.
The arrest stemmed from an argument with his girlfriend, Maxarine Harvest, he said. Jones and Harvest said the incident was blown out of proportion. The Honolulu city and county prosecutor's office backs up this claim, as Jones was released without charges.
The prosecutor's office also said Jones has no prior arrests in Hawaii, and Jones said it is the first time he's ever been in trouble with the law.
"Never been put in jail, never arrested," Jones said. "It's very embarrassing, especially because I'm new and first impressions are everything.
"It was more an argument than anything else," Jones said of the incident that led to the arrest. "The next door neighbors saw me pulling her back inside the dorm so there wouldn't be a big argument outside. I didn't want campus security coming and being involved. I grabbed her by her arm to get her back inside. Police took it as I was kidnapping her. That's in the past, that's behind us."
Harvest said she and Jones have known each other since they were 7, and they have been a couple for more than two years.
"It was a loud argument going about 10 or 15 minutes," said Harvest, in a phone interview from her home in California. "Someone called the police and we had to go with procedure. I wasn't really upset, I was more embarrassed."
Harvest said Jones did not strike her and collaborated his statement about pulling her back into the residence. She said she was not injured, and that Jones has never assaulted her.
"He did not hit me," Harvest said. "He never has."
ARRESTS OF Warriors players have been rare in the nine years June Jones has been UH football coach. Keenan Jones said he is aware of this, and it is one of the reasons he spoke to a reporter about his situation.
"This type of thing is not the Hawaii trend," Keenan Jones said. "I want to thank Coach Jones. He has done nothing but help me. Teammates have been very supportive. They never judged me. If they ask, I tell them what happened."
Although Keenan Jones was prohibited from participating in spring practice for breaking team rules (before the arrest incident), he was never suspended from the team, prior to or after the arrest. June Jones has also disciplined several other players for academic lapses and violations of team rules by having them focus on schoolwork in lieu of participating in practices or games.
"I was always on the team. There was a little drama I had. No charges were filed. It's just a matter of me taking care of these summer sessions, and I'll be back in the fall," Keenan Jones said. "I start summer school July 2. I haven't played in two years. I'm ready to get back on the field and contribute."