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Thomas Jones: NFL running back turned actor

Thomas Jones: NFL running back turned actor
Chicago Bears running back Thomas Jones (20) is pursued by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett (58) in the second half of Super Bowl XLI. (Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports Copyright © 2007 Jason Parkhurst)

CHICAGO (BVM) – During his time in the NFL, Thomas Jones was a consistent and productive running back. He had five straight years of rushing for over 1,000 yards and is one of only 31 NFL running backs to rush for more than 10,000 yards during his entire career. After retiring following the 2011 season, Jones has become a successful actor. Going by the name Thomas Q. Jones, he got his start in Hollywood in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. 

Thomas Jones’ early career

Jones was a super star at Powell Valley High School in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Powell Valley has since been turned into Union High School but when Jones was at Powell it was a football powerhouse. Jones helped lead Powell to back-to-back Virginia High School League state championships in 1994 and 1995. During his time at Powell he rushed for 7,793 yards and 104 touchdowns. When Jones finished his high school career, he had set multiple VHSL records, including the single-season rushing record with 3,319 yards and single-game rushing record with 462 yards. The single-game rushing record was held by Jones’ uncle Edd Clark until Jones broke it. Following his high school career Jones went to the University of Virginia where his football career would continue to flourish. He was also inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Thomas Jones’ Virginia career 

As a Cavalier, Jones started his career behind Tiki Barber. Once Barber left for the NFL, Jones became the main running back for Virginia as a sophomore. However, it was during his junior year that Jones really took over. That season, Jones rushed for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns on 238 rushing attempts. The Cavaliers went 9-3, finishing in the top 20 and making it to the Peach Bowl.

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Virginia Cavaliers running back Thomas Jones (6) in action against the Clemson Tigers. (Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Network)

Jones followed up his junior season with an even better senior year. He rushed for 1,798 yards and 16 touchdowns. That season put him ahead of Barber as the all-time leading rusher in Virginia history with 3,998 career rushing yards. Jones was a consensus first-team All-American and left Virginia as one of the best running backs in Cavalier history. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the seventh pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. 

Thomas Jones’ NFL career

Jones’ first three NFL seasons were marred by injuries and sharing the backfield with Michael Pittman in Arizona until 2002. Jones only played one full season during his time with the Cardinals and was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of the 2003 season. 

He played one season for the Buccaneers before signing with the Chicago Bears in free agency. In his first season in Chicago, Jones rushed for 984 yards and seven touchdowns. His second season with the Bears would be the beginning of five straight 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons for the Virginia native. Jones had 1,335 rushing yards, helping the Bears to a 11-5 record, a first place finish in the NFC North and a playoff berth. The next year in 2006, he once again rushed for more than 1,000 yards and the Bears went 13-3. In the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Jones rushed for two touchdowns and 123 yards. On Chicago’s first touchdown drive of the game, he ran the ball on every play of the drive, rushing eight times for 69 yards to get into the endzone. Jones played a big role in Chicago’s 39-14 win over the Saints and the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1985. The Bears would lose in the Super Bowl to the Indianapolis Colts but Jones still had 112 rushing yards.

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Chicago Bears running back (20) Thomas Jones throws a stiff arm against New Orleans Saints safety (29) Josh Bullocks during the second quarter of the NFC Championship game. (Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports Copyright © 2007 Jerry Lai)

The same season Jones made it to the Super Bowl, his brother, Julius, rushed for more than 1,000 yards with the Dallas Cowboys. It marked the first time in NFL history that brothers rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season. 

Following the loss in the Super Bowl, Thomas was traded to the New York Jets along with a second round pick in exchange for the Jets second round pick. He continued to produce at a high level in New York, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with the Jets. In 2008, he made his first and only Pro Bowl while rushing for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns. Then in 2009, Thomas was a part of a Jets team that went all the way to the AFC Championship game before losing to the Indianapolis Colts. Even though he had just had a career best season, the Jets released after 2009 and Thomas signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.

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New York Jets running back Thomas Jones (20) runs against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first half of the 2010 AFC Wild Card playoff game. (Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports.)

While in Kansas City, Thomas did surpass 10,000 career rushing yards, becoming only the 25th running back to do so in NFL history. After two years with the Chiefs, Thomas retired from football. He finished his 11-year career with 10,591 rushing yards and 68 touchdowns. 

Thomas Q. Jones’ acting career 

Following his retirement from the NFL, Thomas began acting. Going by Thomas Q. Jones, his first acting job was in an episode of Shameless in 2013, just one year after he retired from the NFL. Since that first job, Thomas dove head first into the world of acting. He owns Independently Major Entertainment Films, a company that produced the movie A Violent Man, a movie that Thomas both starred and directed. Thomas also appeared in the movie Straight Outta Compton.

Thomas also stars in the Bounce TV series Johnson but is best known for his role as the Marvel villain “Comanche” on the Netflix series Luke Cage. His time as “Comanche” had him nominated for Emmy consideration in 2019. Thomas also has a recurring role as “Mane” on the Starz series P-Valley. Thomas’ acting and producing career has continued to take off and the former NFL running back has found success in Hollywood.