Thank You Aki!
The paragraphs below have been written way to soon, the sudden and shocking passing of Aki Jones is hard to digest. He left a gap that will be hard to fill.
He was large not only by statue - a Fordham Alumni, Redskins Defensive Lineman, played football in Poland, Finland, was a broadcaster for BBC and columnist for TDEU, and most recently was a member of the Front Office of Miami Dolphins, he even starred in a Polish comedy as a "Big Chocolate".
The only part about the paragraph above, that we all can not accept is the past form of the verbs.
This text is a simple thank you note -We owe to Aki Jones and his family .
I had the chance to work with Aki during a Football Camp that I've organized almost four years ago in Poznan, Aki Jones along Mark Philmore, Jacek Wallusch and Willie Sherid were the coaching staff - working with more than 50 young players from lower division teams.
Aki coached the Lineman, taught them fundamentals, was focused on details. He tested and approved the newly welded homemade sled. Later that day he spoke and patiently answered the questions about strength and conditioning, life in the NFL and any other that participants came up with.
After the whole day of work I gave him and Mark Philmore a ride to the hotel, and then a ride to the center of Poznan. I asked Aki if I could copy the 2005 Redskins Conditioning Manual - sure no problem he said - so instead of going out with them I was in a copy shop copying it, page by page.
It took me like an hour and by time I finished my eyes were hurting.
On Sunday morning, I picked up Aki and Mark and they were both ready to rock. During a break all of the Coaching Staff - had to sign 70 Certificates - no problem with that. At the end of the event they were presented to the participants.
Aki Jones loved the game of Football, he was truly an Ambassador, but his life was more than just gridiron.
As a writer, his Pass-Sporting Diaries were, in my opinion by far the best articles published on TDEU. Not only Aki has seen a lot as an Import and had lots of stories to share. He was intelligent, outspoken with a great sense of humor and sarcasm. The texts covered various on and off the field issues that an import player may encounter, when playing overseas. They are still available and if you haven't read them I highly recommend them.
Earlier this year I had the chance to travel around the US, while preparing my itinerary I was thinking about visiting Miami to meet with Aki. Unfortunately I didn't go there, but thought that there always is the next year...
For all of Us who knew Aki, played, coached, with or against him the form WAS is hardly acceptable right now, it happened way ahead of His time. As his actions and his legacy lives on I prefer the form HAS BEEN.
Aki Jones has been 31 years old, in that time he graduated from a respected Fordham University, lived NFL dream, helped establishing football overseas. He had successfully transitioned to a post-playing career.
But more importantly he loved life, was a down to earth guy, intelligent, positive. In those few autumn days in Poznan few years ago, we had more than 50 kids, going up to 600km - one way, to learn from Aki, Mark, Jacek and Willie.
As I'm writing these words I look at the copy of the Redskins Conditioning Manual, the Certificate he has signed. Four years later the sled Aki tested is still used, teaching fundamentals.
Perhaps His biggest contribution are the young players he mentored in Wroclaw, Warsaw and other places he played .
I'm more than sure that Aki is right now in a better place,you will not be forgotten and our thought and prayers are with your family and friends.
If there is one lesson we should learn from Aki's life is to seize our opportunities, chase our dreams . Have sense of humor and be positive everyday. Thank you Aki!