NEW ORLEANS --- Playing Georgia brought back some fond memories for June Jones.
Hawaii's coach played with the Atlanta Falcons. His first coaching experience came at a high school in Georgia.
So when the bowl announcements came out and Jones saw the matchup with Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, he got a chance to reminisce about his first days as a football coach.
"Went to Forsyth County High School there in northern Georgia, and they hadn't won a game in two or three years," Jones said. "The coach, Jim Cooper, let me be offensive coordinator, and we started off 5-0. Then we went to Clarke Central over there in Athens, and they were ranked No. 1 at the time, and they kind of put it on us. I knew that was something I wanted to do and something I wanted to be a part of, and I've been doing it sever since."
The run and shoot offense that Jones utilizes with Hawaii is almost identical to the offense he ran at Forsyth County more than two decades ago. Jones might not be the inventor of the four-receiver offense, but he is certainly one of the pioneers, and everybody from the New England Patriots to junior highs now incorporate some form of the spread offense into their game plans.
"It's almost 20 years ago when I lined up with this offense with Jerry Glanville, and for about 15 years, it was being bad-mouthed," Jones said. "Now I look around, and the Patriots and the Colts and people like that are running what we ran and saying, 'That's how you play the game.' Knowing I was a part of that with Jerry and Mouse (Davis) gives me a lot of satisfaction. Now everybody in the National Football League does what we do now. It just so happens that New England does it every play."
Jones' evolution as a coach started with truncated playing stints at Oregon and Hawaii, where he was on the field for a total of about 10 plays. He decided to leave football and enroll at Portland State, where Davis had installed the run and shoot. Davis talked Jones into returning to football, and he set a single- season passing record.
"How do you go from three years of never getting onto the field to being a Kodak All-American as a quarterback?" Jones said. "It was because of the offense."
Jones became a disciple of Davis' run and shoot and spread the gospel when he was drafted by the Falcons. He has been either an assistant or a head coach in the USFL, CFL and NFL. He returned to Hawaii in 1999 and transformed the Warriors into the best program from a non-BCS conference in the country this season. Now, like in the beginning, Jones' focus is on the offense. Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan set 29 NCAA passing records in his three seasons at Hawaii.
"During practice, he talks about 80 percent of the time, coach talks at Colt," Hawaii safety Jacob Patek said. "Then about 20 percent is directed toward receivers. He sticks to what he does best, which is that run and shoot offense."
Jones resurrected Hawaii's football program and put it on the national map with a 12-0 regular season in 2007 and the school's first BCS bowl bid. Brennan was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and Hawaii sold out its 15,000-ticket allotment to the Sugar Bowl.
Reach Roger Clarkson at email@example.com.