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The top 100 FSU football players: No. 8— linebacker Marvin Jones

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“The ultimate hit for me would be [one] where they had to call in the trauma helicopter.” —Marvin Jones

Florida State Seminoles v Michigan Wolverines Photo by Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

Terrify.

transitive verb; terrified, terrifying.

1. a - To drive or impel by menacing

b - Deter, Intimidate

2. To fill with terror

Consult Merriam-Webster and the above is what you’ll find for the word “terrify.”

Consult Florida State opponents from 1990 to 1992 and they’ll provide an alternative definition: Marvin Jones.

Marvin Maurice Jones was a quiet, pudgy kid growing up in Miami, Florida. At age 11, tragedy struck. And it struck again. And then again. Within a three month span, Jones lost his mother, his grandfather, and an older sister—all to heart related deaths.

Marvin and his brother Michael, a year older, were left to be raised by their father, Nathaniel, a Korean War vet who quit his job as a truck driver to find work that kept him home, and Fred Jones, a freshman football player at FSU. Together, Nathaniel and Fred helped Marvin channel all that pain and anger into a near perfect specimen of a linebacker. The result was breathtaking.

A USA Today high school all-american at Miami Northwestern High, Jones arrived at FSU as a 6’2, 225 pound beast who wore number 55 because in his words, “It’s the speed limit. Everything stops there.” But in one of his very first practices he had to stop himself and passed out under a large oak tree near the FSU practice fields after he went a little to hard on the first few wind sprints. This earned him the nickname “Shade Tree” from FSU linebackers coach Wally Burnham and the moniker stuck.

Pretty soon it would be Shade Tree doing the sticking—hit sticking.

In his very first collegiate game, Jones led the Seminoles in tackles with 10, despite not getting the start. Leading the team in tackles would become a common occurrence. Coming off the bench...not so much.

Just a couple games later against Virginia Tech, Jones would register a whopping 20 tackles, 15 of which were unassisted and 4 were for lost yardage, as he punished Hokie ball carriers all night long.

His last tackle of the night helped seal the hard fought win over VT, as he and Kirk Curruthers combined to force a fumble that was housed by Errol McCorvey (and wow is this some closing speed).

A week later, Jones racked up 15 more tackles in a loss against arch rival Miami. As if 15 tackles against one rival wasn’t impressive enough, he introduced himself to the Florida Gators 18 times to help FSU earn a 45-30 victory. One of those friendly introductions was to UF QB Shane Matthews:

When Jones’ freshman season was complete the results were a mind boggling 133 tackles, eight of them for loss. This earned Shade Tree a third team AP All-American distinction and served notice to the rest of the college football world of what was about to happen.

The next two years were fury on a football field. Dennis Erickson, who called him the best linebacker he’s ever seen play in college football, summed it up well when he said, “Marvin gets to the ball in a hurry and he’s not in a good mood when he gets there.”

Here’s the short version:

  • Back-to-back 1st team All-American nods, consensus in 1991 and unanimous in 1992
  • 236 tackles, 19 for loss, in just 22 games (bowls not included), leading FSU in all three years he played
  • His 369 tackles (in just 33 games) in his career rank 8th all-time in FSU history and he’s the only guy in the top 10 who played less than four seasons
  • 1992 Butkus Award winner, and when presented the award, Butkus himself told him, “thanks for being yourself and playing the game the way it should be played.”
  • 1992 Lombardi Award winner, becoming FSU’s first football player to win two national awards in the same season
  • 4th place finish in the 1992 Heisman Trophy voting
  • One perfect hit

Following his award winning junior season, Jones declared for the NFL draft and soon became the highest pick for any FSU player up to that point, going 4th overall to the New York Jets. Over a 10 year career, all with the Jets, Jones compiled 1,016 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 9 sacks, and 5 interceptions. His finest season as a pro came in 2000 when Shade Tree tallied a career high 135 tackles and earned first team All Pro honors.

In case the highlights weren’t enough, here’s 47 minutes of Marvin Jones inflicting pain on terrified opponents. And by the way, the first hit against the poor Auburn running back? Yeah, that’s as a true freshman, folks.