The name Phil Jones will always have an iconic ring when it comes to Winder-Barrow High School football.

As the long-time Bulldogg head coach and athletic director and later member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, Jones oversaw some of the most successful seasons in WBHS gridiron history. His leadership skills are talked about in line with his coaching ability.

After Jones stepped down after the 1996 season a long football dry spell in terms of success began which really hasn’t ended until recently and more specifically this season. While there has been a bright spot here and there, the majority of the football campaigns the past two decades have fallen far short of the glory days of the Jones era. In recognition of what Jones has meant and still means to WBHS football, he and his wife, Janie, will be the grand marshals of this year’s homecoming parade, scheduled for Thursday. Jones is battling health issues in 2017 which have caused him to no longer be on the sidelines as a coach but he will always maintain his iconic status inside W. Clair Harris Stadium.

Even before arriving at WBHS, Jones had forged a solid coaching resume with stops at Jeff Davis, Fitzgerald and Dooly County. He guided the Bulldoggs from 1984-1996 and those years are still recalled fondly by many locally.

After leaving Winder-Barrow, Jones began coaching at the collegiate level. He was actually a graduate assistant at the University of Georgia before coaching at SMU and Gardner-Webb. He helped start a football program at Shorter University in Rome, serving as the school’s head coach from 2005-2015.

While Jones only coached at the collegiate ranks after leaving WBHS, he was presented with one opportunity prior to the 2001 season when officials at nearby Monroe Area High School tried to hire him to lead the football program there.

In the premier edition of the Barrow Journal, we featured Jones on the front of our debut sports section and updated local readers on how the beloved coach was doing at the Rome school. While he clearly loved his current role at the time, Jones still spoke passionately about the years he spent locally and all the friends his family made. Those friends remain friends today.

Jones’ Shorter team also played in a historic game against Georgia State University as the Hawks were the first ever football opponent for the Panthers. The game was played in the Georgia Dome and we were there to chronicle it and catch up with the WBHS icon again.

The recognition of Jones is a welcome occurrence in 2017 and with the current version of the WBHS team now ranked in the top 10 for several weeks, it is only fitting to honor a man who helped guide the Bulldogg program to some of its most successful seasons.

No matter how many seasons are played, Jones will always be thought of when it comes to the football program at WBHS. It goes beyond his coaching ability. One would be hard pressed to find anyone to speak a negative word about him. His positive influence is as strong today, more than 20 years after he coached his last game here, as it was when he roamed the sidelines. It would literally take a book to properly write about all the influence Jones has had on players and students at WBHS. His influence is still being felt today and that is the truest indicator of a great leader. What Jones did goes far beyond winning football games on Friday nights.

Winder resident Chris Bridges has covered high school football since 1988. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.

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