Ex-Eskimo Milson Jones Pushes Forward

REGINA — One alumnus of the 1989 Saskatchewan Roughriders is making a comeback.

Nearing 50, Milson Jones looks and sounds very much like the version of 20 years ago. There is nary a grey hair. The smile seldom leaves his face as he embraces former teammates, poses for pictures and proudly introduces his sons, Devon and Tristan.

Jones speaks cordially and candidly, attributes that made him a favourite of quote-seeking reporters during an 11-year career as a CFL fullback.

Watching him circulate at this weekend’s 20th-anniversary reunion of the 1989 Grey Cup champions, it is difficult to imagine the depths to which he had descended. In 2005, he was portrayed in one newspaper story as a “homeless, penniless drug addict fighting to stay alive on the streets of Winnipeg.’’

Look at him now.

“I think this weekend is really good for him,’’ Devon Jones says while watching his father renew acquaintances. “We’re so glad that something like this reunion came up because it’s something to look forward to after so many years of not looking forward to the next day. I’m really happy this weekend is happening. It’s really good overall. Things are looking up.’’

Milson Jones reached a nadir in a Winnipeg courtroom in the fall of 2005. He was given a one-year conditional discharge after being charged with possession of a controlled substance (a small amount of cocaine). In addition, he received a one-year suspended sentence with probation after being charged with trying to cash a stolen cheque and with stealing $159 worth of meat. Conditions of his probation included drug and alcohol treatment.

“I read in the newspaper that I was living under a bridge and I was dealing all these illegal substances and that I actually stole something from a supermarket,’’ he says. “I didn’t. I did get caught up in a little bit of foolishness that I should have known better than to get caught up in, speaking of drugs and whatnot. I did get caught up in some of that, but I can stand here in front of you today and tell you that I did not steal anything from any store and I was not distributing all this stuff, and that kind of stuff.

“That’s the hurtful part, because no one has ever asked me to tell my side of the story. Some of the things I had to read, the people who are close to me know me well enough that they know I was sincere in what I was telling them. This (interview) is actually a good way to put things to rest. I appreciate it very much because, with all these things that I read, not once did anyone speak to me and ask me my side of the story.’’

So here’s his side.

“I went to the courtroom on the date specified,’’ he recalls. “They called my name and I went up. Some sheriff came and shackled me. He said, ‘You missed the court date last month.’ My lawyer stood up and said, ‘We didn’t have a court date last month.’ They said, ‘Yes, you did, and we’re not going to give him bail or ROR (Release on Recognizance). He’ll have to spend eight months in the remand centre until the next court date, or if he pleads guilty today, we’ll let him go on a conditional sentence.’

“I’m not spending eight months in jail, so I said, ‘Make a note: I’m opposed to this, but I’m going to plead guilty because I’m not sitting in jail for eight months.’ So they let me go and everything went hunky-dory after that and that’s all there was to it. But this is what turned into the fact that I was a shoplifter and a drug dealer and all this kind of stuff. It’s just, pardon my language, a bunch of bulls--t.

“But you know what? I can’t blame anybody because I put myself in that situation to allow that to happen. I harbour no ill feelings. It’s in the past. It’s time for me to just move on and that’s what I’m doing.’’

Jones is working in construction, with plans of taking an occupational health and safety course at Red River Community College in Winnipeg. Devon Jones hopes his father will branch off into coaching football, imparting the expertise he acquired with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (for whom he played in 1982 and 1983), Edmonton Eskimos (1983-87) and Saskatchewan (1988-92).

Along the way, Jones played for Grey Cup champions in 1987 and 1989, earning most-outstanding-Canadian honours in the ’87 league final.

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Milson Jones was one heck of a running back. It’s nice to see it appears he has turned his life around.