The Legacy-Defying Athlete

Published December 26, 2013

ABOVE: SETH JONES IN HIS NASHVILLE PREDATORS UNIFORM. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN RUSSELL/NASHVILLE PREDATORS.

Seth Jones’ backstory is a good one: his father, Jerome “Popeye” Jones was a professional basketball player for12 years and is now an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers. Measuring 6’4″, most would expect Seth to follow his father into the NBA— it does, after all, happen quite frequently: Joe and Kobe Bryant, Tim and Tim Hardaway Jr, Patrick and Patrick Ewing Jr., Dell and Stephen Curry. Seth and his two brothers Justin and Caleb, however, chose to play ice hockey —and they play it well. The stuff of myth, when Popeye was playing for the Denver Nuggets, he approached Colorado Avalanche player Joe Sakic: his three sons were interested in hockey, what should he do to help them? Sakic advised Popeye to get his sons figure skating lessons.

Now only 19, Seth skipped college to go straight into the NHL. He was the fourth draft pick for 2013 (after two Canadians and a Finn) and has since played in all 37 games of the season with his team the Nashville Predators. Pretty impressive for the youngest player on the team. Tomorrow night, Seth and the Predators will face his hometown team, The Dallas Stars.

AGE: 19HOMETOWN: Dallas, Texas. I was pretty young when my family did most of the moving around. I lived in Colorado for eight years. Then I moved one more time to Dallas—my family was there for seven years. I consider my hometown as Dallas, actually. A lot of good things started in Colorado—starting to play hockey and those sorts of things—but I do consider Dallas my hometown. CURRENT LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee. I will be staying in Nashville with my family during off-season. My brothers will come back in the summer to Nashville. LIVING WITH YOUR MOTHER: She wanted to for the first two years [of my professional career]. I think it’s kind of easier on me and we have a great relationship, so it’s not like we hate each other. It makes it a lot easier on me for the transition. CHILDHOOD AMBITION: I always wanted to play hockey professionally. My dad was a basketball player, so it’s kind of funny how me and my other two brothers played hockey. There wasn’t really a specific age where I knew maybe I could play professionally. I played for the U.S. program—that’s where I developed the most, just my entire game. I have a younger brother who is at the U.S. program now at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I have an older brother who is in college playing hockey right now.

I  (DON’T) WISH I WAS A BALLER… Hockey was the first sport I played, and I never really got into basketball too much. I’m pretty sure at some point when we were younger my dad put a basketball in our hands, but he never really forced the issue too much, which was really good I thought. We had a hockey net in our driveway for many years and the hockey net just got used a little bit more than the basketball hoop. My dad enjoys watching hockey; he likes the pace of the game. He didn’t really like it when we were small and it was slow. He liked when we got older and the game sped up.

PLAYING DEFENSE: I think you have a bit more added pressure—your mistakes may be magnified a bit more. Personally, I like defense probably because you can see the whole ice and you can see the play developing in front of you. It’s one of my strengths, I think, being able to anticipate the play.  Every defender has different qualities that they possess: one may be an offense-defenseman that can score goals and make plays, and one may be a defensive-defenseman, who strictly wants to prevent goals from going in. Or maybe you’re a mixture of both. There are not really certain qualities that you have to have to be a good defenseman.

THE OPPOSING TEAM: When you’re on the ice, they’re not really your friend any more—like anyone else, you are trying to win the game for your team. It’s kind of a weird situation, [but] it’s cool playing with your friends. After the game you’ll see them and chat with them for a bit.

THE YOUNG ONE: I’ve been the youngest on my team for a couple of years now. It’s weird looking across the room and there’s a 33-year-old that has two kids and has been married for 10 years. There may be some teasing here and there. Maybe they’ll call you a baby every once in awhile, but they don’t over do it. It’s not like hazing or anything.

BE AGGRESSIVE: I think hockey is more aggressive than basketball, but I don’t think it is more aggressive than football. A lot of guys do get injured, but a lot of the dirty plays—or the plays that could really injure someone physically—are starting to be taken out of the League. There is fighting, but only so many guys will do that nowadays. Football, I think you can hit anyone that’s not carrying the ball. Hockey, you can’t really go and hit someone if they don’t have the puck. People think it’s a very aggressive sport a lot more than it really is because of the fighting part of the game.

GETTING PSYCHED OUT: I try to have a short memory when I play. It’s pretty important. You may make a mistake, and if you think about the mistake, the chances of you doing it again are going to be high. So I try to forget about them. Even when I make a good play, it might build my confidence but you can’t play a perfect game and everyone is going to make mistakes. It matters what you do after that.

HOCKEY AND FASHION: I think hockey has a more clean-cut look; guys wear suits and ties to games. I think it’s very professional. I’m not saying basketball and other sports aren’t, but I think they go outside the lines a little bit more with their fashion. Like Dwyane Wade’s capri suit. I personally think he’s funny, with the big glasses or something like that. You don’t really see that in hockey too much; just a suit and tie usually.

SUPERPOWERS VS. IMMORTALITY: I’d rather be Superman.

LAST HALLOWEEN COSTUME: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The one with the blue bandana.

THE END: You obviously learn many things throughout your career, but there’s a certain age where you are playing your best hockey. The body gets old. Everyone wants to play forever, but everyone knows they can’t. It may be frightening to some guys, but most guys they are just trying to take it in every year.  

For more of our 14 Faces of 2014, click here.