Tiphonie Davison knew exactly what she was doing.
Following three seasons in which her son, Kerrick Jones, blossomed into a football standout at Bellevue Middle School, a number of individuals approached Davison to inquire about where Jones would play high school football.
As Davison tells it, she and her son were already sold on Whitehaven’s tradition-rich program, in large part because of its sustained success in recent years.
“(Whitehaven) Coach (Rodney) Saulsberry was like, ‘Yeah, you can get playing time if you work,’” Davison told MemphiSport.
However, long before Jones enrolled at Whitehaven, there were a slew of coaches who tried to convince Davison that Whitehaven wouldn’t be a suitable place for son, given the Tigers boast a lengthy depth chart at the wide receiver position. While she chose not to name coaches who contacted her about her son’s football future, she said among the things she deemed intriguing about Whitehaven is that Saulsberry and his staff never spoke against other programs throughout the Shelby-Metro area.
“Whitehaven was the only school that didn’t bash the other schools,” Davison said. “And that was the reason Whitehaven was my presence. And because (Jones) is starting is because he put in the work. Nobody gave him anything.”
Saulsberry said he is aware of how a number of coaches throughout the city tried to persuade Davison to allow her son to play for their program.
“We don’t have to talk down on anybody else to build us up,” Saulsberry said. “The name and product speaks for itself.”
To his credit, the 5-foot-9 1/2, 159-pound Jones picked up where he left off after a freshman campaign in which he quickly evolved into one of the area’s finest young receivers. As a true freshman for a Whitehaven team captured its first ever Class 6A championship, Jones was a good as advertised. Then after being installed as a full fledge starter, Jones didn’t disappoint, having amassed 600 yards on 35 receptions and five touchdowns for a Whitehaven team that finished the 2013 campaign with a 9-3 mark.
“I would say I progressed a lot in my tenth grade year,” Jones said in assessing his overall display. “And my teammates encouraged me a lot on and off the field. Each Tuesday and Thursday, we were required to go to study hall. And on the field, (the upper classmen) pushed me. Even though I was a sophomore they looked to me as a leader.”
Among the reasons it didn’t take long for Jones — who simultaneously is a member of Whitehaven’s track and field team while participating in spring football drills — to establish a camaraderie with his older and more experienced teammates is because of the rave reviews he generated during several 7-on-7 camps last summer. The Sardis, Miss. native demonstrated time and again why he assumed a considerable amount of reps with the Tigers’ first stringers, a trend that ultimately left a favorable impression with Saulsberry and his staff.
Following his first full varsity season in which he earned First-Team All District honors, Jones — an honor student who boasts a 3.8 grade point average — also had the luxury of appearing at a number of 7-on-7 camps and combines at several Mid-South area colleges, most notably at Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas State, and the University of Memphis. This offseason will be no different for a rising junior who is almost certain to fall more under the radar as college recruiters have already taken notice of his skills.
“Kerrick has become one of the top receivers in the area, and as a sophomore that’s big,” Saulsberry said. “Among the things I noticed about him is his competitive nature for kid his age. We’re excited because he had a great sophomore season and we’re excited greater things from him next year.”
Among the reasons if that mom knew exactly what she was doing all along.