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D.J. Jones’ impact on the 49ers stretches far beyond the field

D.J. Jones's lasting legacy has nothing to do with football at all.

NFL: Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Hey Denver, you’re lucky.

When DJ Jones shared his parting words with the Faithful, he highlighted the opportunity San Francisco gave him back in 2017, taking a JUCO-turned-Ole Miss product and forming him into one of the most formidable defensive forces in the league.

And while he’ll be remembered as one of the guys who set the tone for the quality of defense that the Niners have become known for, the true Faithful will also remember him for his contributions off the field.

You see, from a young age, Jones had been taught the importance of serving others. He comes from a lineage of hard workers who care deeply for their community.

Just take his dad, Big Dave, for example. While on leave after getting injured on the job, Big Dave didn’t sit and wallow in his misfortune. Instead, he started cooking and eventually developed a signature flair and flavor. That turned into launching his own BBQ business.

That BBQ business became the foundation for the Jones family going forward, paving the way to Big Dave serving as executive chef for the Dallas Cowboys, and making meals for other legends around and outside the league. While working in Dallas, DJ saw a glimpse into his own future in the league, meeting legends like Emmitt Smith.

“We walked through the corridors of NFL facilities of the Cowboys, we worked for the Panthers during their inaugural season, and I also worked with Dan Reeves of the Atlanta Falcons,” Big Dave told me back in October. “Barbeque has opened up a lot of doors for us.”

Fast forward, and then you’ve got Big Dave’s All-American BBQ, bottled sauces that you can buy now, and his own son’s face plastered across those bottles. But Big Dave didn’t put his son’s face on the bottle just to net profits. He put it there to help serve a greater good and to generate money to donate to his son’s foundation, the DJ Jones Foundation.

“One night at four o’clock in the morning, I’m trying to figure out a way to raise funding for the foundation, and it just hit me,” said Big Dave. “I sat up, and I said, ‘Well, how many people got a son [that’s] an NFL player? He’s got a platform. Let’s try to put him on the label.’”

The Niners got to experience Big Dave’s All American BBQ first hand in 2018 when Big Dave headed to Santa Clara to cook up his signature flavor for 49ers player and staff families at their annual Summer Family BBQ at SAP Performance Center.

D.J. and former Niner Solomon Thomas even collaborated on a sauce together: Thomas’ Solar Heat Hot Sauce. It was a match made in heaven with both D.J. and Thomas caring deeply about giving back to their communities. Proceeds from the hot sauce (and another Thomas marinade) went to his own foundation, the Defensive Line.

The DJ Jones Foundation is pretty remarkable. It helps inner-city youth through hot meals, holiday gifts, educational supplies giveaways, football camps, and scholarships. Time hasn’t always been easy for the Jones family. Now that D.J. has a platform, he has wanted to empower kids through sports the same way sports empowered him as a young person, too.

The same heart D.J. brings to the football field during games he brings with him to the camps and events he hosts for his foundation. When Big Dave told me about that when I previously profiled his son, he was beaming with pride.

“The kids absolutely love D.J. because he becomes a kid [with them],” said Big Dave. “He gets down and dirty, crawling and doing drills with them.”

No kidding, he really does. And you can tell D.J. doesn’t just show up for the optics, but because he genuinely cares about where he comes from and helping out the next generation. All you have to do is look to his social media to see examples of just that. Like here, in 2018, when he looked over his campers with pride and gratitude.

In the post above, he called his campers future phenoms. Maybe that’s because he knows firsthand that’s exactly where the next generation of stars are born, on a grass field in a small town with nothing but love for the game. From Wren High School in Piedmont, South Carolina. To East Mississippi Community College, where he won two national championships. To the University of Mississippi. To the San Francisco 49ers. And now, to the Denver Broncos.

My favorite thing I gleaned from Big Dave was the advice he gave to his son: “Play the way your dad cooks, like your hair’s on fire. Play like I run my grill, hot and wide open. Leave it all on the field.”

Hey Denver, you’re lucky, I say again. But I mean it. Mile High Stadium ain’t nothing compared to how far D.J. is bound to soar.