FOXBOROUGH — The Jones boys were active in sports as they grew up, but even in their biggest dreams, they did not imagine that they might enjoy a 24-hour span like the one coming this weekend.
On Saturday night, around 10 o’clock in Toronto, Jonny “Bones” Jones, a fast-ascending star in the mixed martial arts world, will defend his UFC light heavyweight championship against Vitor Belfort.
On Sunday night around 8:20, in the week’s marquee NFL game, the Baltimore Ravens host the Patriots in a battle of two of the best teams in the AFC.
Arthur Jones III plays for the Ravens. Chandler Jones plays for the Patriots.
Three brothers, three professional athletes. One heck of a weekend for their family.
“I’m really excited — really excited,” Jon said not long after arriving in Toronto. “We get to watch Art and Chandler compete against each other for the first time. I’m sure it will be a little strange at first, but I’m overwhelmed with excitement.”
“This is a great family,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “Credit to their parents, what they’ve accomplished. You probably have the top fighter in the world, you have two NFL football players both playing at an incredibly high level, and they’re just great people.”
Sunday’s game has been highlighted on the family calendar since Chandler was selected by the Patriots with the 21st overall pick in April’s draft. Arthur was a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2010, and their mother Camille wasted no time ordering a custom jersey for the event: half New England and half Baltimore.
Arthur Jr. and Camille will be with Jon for his fight, then the three, plus Jon’s fiancée and two young daughters, will board a plane Sunday morning for Maryland.
Asked if the brothers ever talked about such a situation when they were younger, Chandler said, “Not at all. Nope, not at all. We didn’t even know Jon was going to fight.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a very good blessing. It’s an honor. I’m excited for him, hopefully he can come out with that win.”
The brothers were born in Rochester, N.Y., but the Jones family moved to the small town of Endicott when Chandler, the baby of the bunch, was 8. When they were young, they shared one bedroom; when they watched television, they were crammed together onto one small couch.
Arthur Jr. is a longtime pastor and Camille works in the ministry with him. The church they direct, the Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ, sits in a small blue slat building just down the street from the Binghamton hospital. From a very young age, the boys were there, learning the lessons their father and grandfather, who was also a pastor, were sharing with the congregation.
Faith is what gets the family through difficult times. The boys had an older sister, Carmen, who doted on them, doing the chores she was supposed to dole out to them. She was tall like her brothers, but preferred styling her mother’s hair or redecorating the family home to sports.
Not long after the Joneses moved to Endicott, Carmen was diagnosed with brain cancer. She did not want nurses, so instead it fell to Camille to care for her, though the mother received plenty of help from her sons.
Carmen died just before her 18th birthday, when Chandler was only 10.
In recent years, Camille’s diabetes has robbed her of her sight. She still attends all of Jon’s matches and goes to the football games, dependent on her husband or her sons’ significant others to give her play-by-play.
At Union-Endicott High, Arthur and Jon played football and wrestled, but Chandler preferred basketball to the wrestling mats in the winter.
All showed promise. While Arthur chose nearby Syracuse to continue playing football, Jon moved on to Iowa Central Community College, where he won a junior college national title as a wrestler.
Chandler, nearly four years younger than Arthur and three years younger than Jon, followed in his big brother’s footsteps to Syracuse. The two were roommates for one year before Arthur graduated and began his career in the NFL.
Though he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, Arthur was a standout with the Orange and gave serious thought to leaving after his junior year. But he wanted to see the program get to a bowl game and also get the chance to play with Chandler.
But not long after announcing that he was staying at Syracuse, Arthur suffered a torn pectoral. The injury affected him in the fall, and his draft stock slipped. In his third year with Baltimore, he is a top backup on a talented defensive line.
While Arthur, noted by most everyone that crosses his path for his positive disposition and giant smile, was collecting Big East accolades, Jon decided to become a mixed martial arts fighter. He quickly established himself as a standout in the sport, which continues to gain popularity. In March 2011, Jon became the youngest champion in UFC history when he defeated Mauricio Rua.
Then it was Chandler’s turn. The tallest of the three, possessing long arms and great speed, he learned from Arthur’s misfortune and left after his junior season, despite a knee injury that limited him to seven games.
His potential was so great that Bill Belichick moved up in the first round to get him — the first time in nine years the Patriots coach had made such a move.
Jones has not disappointed, with two starts and two forced fumbles in his first two NFL games.
“It’s really good to see Chandler holding his own,” Jon said. “A lot of times as a rookie there’s a feeling-out process, but he jumped in full speed ahead and is playing at a high level.
“I’m really happy to see that not only is he in the NFL, he’s on a great team and he’s a contributor.”
Their success has also enabled the brothers to help their mother. Chandler is paying Camille’s medical expenses, and they have also made sure that there are maids to help at home.
With the bravado all fighters have, Jon expresses confidence that he’ll do just fine in his fight Saturday, and Chandler knows his brother will be victorious.
But the fact remains that by the end of Sunday night, at least one of the Jones brothers will have suffered defeat and will be grousing about what didn’t go right.
The Ravens could win. The Patriots could win.
“It’s football,” Chandler said. “You win some, you lose some.
“I’m going to go out there with a game plan and try to execute that game plan to try to win, and hopefully it’s me.”