By Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.
Petey Jones, the T.C. Williams High School football legend who helped lead the Titans to their historic 1971 State Championship, has died. Jones, a fullback on the team who was immortalized in the film “Remember the Titans,” passed away early Monday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 65.
“We lost a dynamite football player and human being,” former T.C. Williams football coach Herman Boone said. “Petey Jones was very quiet, but man would he knock your head off on the football field. He worked as a security officer for the school system at T.C, and he caught many students goofing off, and the ones he saw the good in he gave them a break, and the ones he saw the bad in he didn’t give them too much… He was a hell of a team player. What a loss.”
Jones, who retired last fall as an Alexandria City Public Schools employee for 29 years, was affectionately known as Petey. Born and raised in Alexandria, he transferred to T.C. from George Washington High School in 1971. That year, the newly-integrated Titans football team played an undefeated season and won the state championship in Roanoke.
Jones’ death is the most recent loss since assistant coach Bill Yoast passed away in May and Julius Campbell, a defensive lineman on the 1971 team, died earlier this year.
”Petey was always generous with his time and wisdom with our guests, often leaving them in tears of emotion and joy,” said T.C. Williams High School principal Peter Balas said last year after Jones’ retirement. “He has devoted much of his life to T.C. Williams High School and has formed many great relationships with staff and students. He has been here to inspire and guide our students with compassion, integrity and kindness. I am always astounded when visitors come to T.C. to see the school memorialized in Hollywood history and have time to interact with Petey to talk about our school and its rich history.”
Jones, who was portrayed by Donald Faison in the 2000 film, later said that his senior year at T.C. was far different than the school experiences of future generations.
“T.C. has so many different countries represented now,” he said. “Back then, everything was black and white. Now you’ve got kids coming from all over the world. The big difference between us is … they’ve got more things to deal with than we did.”