Offensive coordinator Khari Jones directs traffic during BC Lions mini camp at the practice facility in Surrey, BC, April 28, 2014.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
At rookie night during the B.C. Lions’ training camp, some wise guy found a clip of first-year offensive co-ordinator Khari Jones acting up a storm in the art house classic, Confessions of a Go-Go Girl.
Remarkably, the Academy overlooked this performance — Jones plays the manager of, er, a gentlemen’s club. His big line: “Have you ever heard of this guy? My girls call him Dr. Double D” — but the Lions did not. They applauded loudly. They roared in appreciation.
And they laughed. They laughed long and loud.
“I think they got a kick out of it,” Jones says and, yes, he gets the joke.
“He’s an interesting cat,” Lions’ head coach Mike Benevides says of his OC. “I’m still getting to know him but I can tell you, there are a lot of layers to that onion.”
Jones, among other things, is believed to be the only CFL assistant coach with his own IMDb entry. True, his filmography — Snow 2, I Dream of Murder, the aforementioned Confessions — will never be confused with Marlon Brando’s. But he’s been a working actor since his college days and his stage work includes Waiting For Godot (!) and the critically acclaimed Jesus Hopped The A Train.
He’s also been, in no particular order, a teacher, a counsellor, the CFL’s most outstanding player and a sportscaster, while learning to tap dance. If need be, he can fake at least one aria.
“Football is definitely the No. 1 priority right now,” he says. “But I’ve never wanted to be defined by one thing. I’ve always liked to explore things.”
Did we mention he got his first big break in football 15 years ago because the man ahead of him on the B.C. Lions’ depth chart in those days was a heroin addict?
As mentioned, he’s an interesting cat.
Jones is preoccupied these days with a B.C. offence which, depending on your point of view, has been infuriatingly inconsistent or on the verge of greatness.
Running back Andrew Harris is having a monster year and the Leos are coming off an impressive win against Calgary. On the other hand, Kevin Glenn has thrown nine interceptions in six games, and the line has struggled.
Maybe all the offence needs is the return of starting quarterback Travis Lulay, who could see his first live action of the season on Friday night against Hamilton.
But Benevides says his first-year co-ordinator has been the least of the unit’s problems.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” said the Leos head coach. “I think there have been a lot of challenges for him and I think he’s found a way to make things works.”
(The Lions have the league’s second-ranked offence in terms of yardage).
“He’s good with people. You can have great chalkboard stuff and great ideas. But it’s not going to work if you can’t reach people, and I think everything he’s done has created the skills that make him a good coach.”
Besides, how many other OC’s can say they played Juan Peron in Evita?
Jones got the acting bug in college when he was starring at UC-Davis and he’s never let it go. When he retired in 2005 after seven CFL seasons — including four with the Bombers when he might have been the best quarterback in the league — he drifted back to the stage and screen while keeping a gig with CBC’s broadcast team and working in Calgary’s oilpatch.
That went on for a couple of years before he attended a game between his alma mater and Montana, where he reconnected with some old friends and, more to the point, football.
He returned to Calgary, told his wife Justine he wanted back into football and, in 2009, landed in Hamilton as part of Marcel Bellefeuille’s staff.
In 2012, he moved on to the Roughriders as their quarterbacks coach, and last year won a Grey Cup ring with Saskatchewan. In December, the Lions hired him to replace Jacques Chapdelaine.
Jones was asked about the similarities between his day job and acting.
“They’re both so similar,” he said. “I mean, you’re putting on a show, but there’s a lot of work that goes into all the things people are seeing on stage or on the field. It’s an amazing amount of work to get those 60 plays in. It’s the same thing on stage.
“I’m lucky. I enjoy the grind. It sucks when you lose and it sucks when the show isn’t good. But when things work, it’s a great feeling.”
In signing on with the Lions, Jones also returned to the organization where he started his CFL career, and therein lies a story.
The 43-year-old spent two seasons with the Leos and in 1999, his last year with the team, he was ostensibly the third-string quarterback. The No. 2, however, was former NFLer Todd Marinovich, who was also a practising heroin addict — which meant Jones saw some live action late in the year.
That offseason he was traded to the Blue Bombers for offensive lineman Chris Perez. The next year, he was the league’s most outstanding player.
“It was sad,” Jones said of Marinovich. “He just wasn’t into football. But maybe things happen for a reason.”
And maybe, as Benevides suggests, he is the sum total of all his experiences.
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