Jarvis Jones Channels Personal Pain into Football Aggression

Kelly Lambert

ESPN covered Jarvis Jones' past before the 2012 college football season, and brought to light what motivates Pittsburgh's new outside linebacker.

Jarvis Jones was in the 8th grade when his older brother, Darcell Kitchens, went out with friends for his birthday and never came home.

In 2005, Darcell Kitchens was out with friends celebrating when he got into a fight outside a bar. He was beaten by two men, one of whom shot him two times and is now serving a life-sentence in prison, and was unable to recover from his wounds.

Jones remembers the last conversation he had with his brother, who was celebrating his 19th birthday in their hometown in Georgia. Kitchens was getting ready to head out with friends, and asked his little brother if Jarvis wanted him to stay and celebrate with him, to which his little brother replied that he should go with his friends and have fun.

A simple and kind gesture to allow his older brother to spend the night with friends instead of this young man who was only 15 at the time, turned into one of Jarvis Jones’ biggest regrets.

He later said, "It stuck with me for a long time. If I had just stayed there with him, he might still be here. I really struggled with it. It took a toll on me. It killed me inside. I'd completely shut it down emotionally."

Jarvis Jones’ life quickly spiraled downhill without his older brother there to look out for him, and he was expelled from not only his school, but eventually the entire district he resided in for violence and disruptive behavior.

"I got into a lot of trouble after that at school and couldn't control my anger. I was so close to my brother. I was so angry he wasn't with me anymore. I didn't want to go to school or anything," Jones later said.

At the time, all Jones wanted to do was play basketball, but it would take the guidance of one of his academic counselors in basketball, Shelley Stephens, to lead him to discover that channeling his anger into football could be therapeutic. It didn’t hurt that the kid was great either.

Mrs. Stephens befriended Jones, and he would move in with her at her home in Columbus, Georgia, 35 miles away from his hometown of Richland. He enrolled in Carver High School, where more adults took him under their wing and tutored him in academics and about life.

By the end of high school, Jones was one of the highest-rated recruits in the country, and committed to USC, where he was one of the top freshman on the team before a neck injury ended his season. This injury would prompt further tests that first revealed the Spinal Stenosis we have all become accustomed to reading about.

Jones transferred to Georgia, where he would go on to become one of the best, in my opinion the best, OLB prospects in the 2013 draft. His stats and skill-set have been discussed ad nauseam, but it was his past that motivated him to be truly great, and to overcome his Spinal Stenosis.

Jones now has a different view on his brother’s murder than the one that led him down a path that nearly cost him this chance, "He's who motivates me now. I feel like he gives me all my strength. He walks with me everyday."

Jarvis Jones is a one-speed player who is best described as a "seek-and-destroy" kind of pass rusher. Many people thought he was born to wear the Black and Gold before Thursday’s first round, and clearly Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin agreed with them.

Welcome to Steeler Nation Jarvis Jones. Your life has been one that many of us couldn’t imagine coming through with such grace, understanding, and motivation. But you made it through those trials and are a Steeler now. We couldn’t be happier to have you.

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