ELKO — A junior college football program with 33 bowl games under its belt, 19 conference titles, two state crowns and two national championships.
The former starting spot for Super Bowl XLV champion, Super Bowl MVP and two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers was also the launching pad for NFL Hall of Fame offensive lineman and Super Bowl XXX champ Larry Allen.
Afore mentioned are the accolades of Butte College, in Oroville, California, the future football destination of Elko’s Cooper Jones.
Jones, an Elko High School Class of 2019 graduate, finished his career with consecutive 1st-Team All-State selections at kick returner — voted by the coaches for the second year in a row as the best 3A kick returner in Nevada — also gaining 1st-Team All-League and 2nd-All-State honors on both sides of the ball at running back and cornerback during his senior year.
He visited Butte in late June and liked what he saw, and Butte head coach Robby Snelling liked what he has seen of Jones’ elite-playmaking ability.
“The head coach, Robby Snelling, played with my uncle Tim (Gilligan) at Boise State (University), so there’s a connection there. Butte has been really good for the past seven or eight years. I think they won the national championship in 2014,” Jones said. “The school is kind of close to home and does a really good job of getting kids out to the next level.”
In 2000, Cooper’s dad, Mitch Jones, was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame at Shasta College (Redding, California), where has was an All-American returner in 1995 and 1996.
During his time at Shasta, Mitch Jones played with McQueen High School head football coach Jim Snelling — the brother of Robby Snelling.
The playing surface at Butte College will be similar for Jones.
“It’s a grass field, but they take really good care of it. They’re in the process of putting in a new locker room and a press box, and those should be done by next year,” Cooper Jones said. “The bleachers are not as wide as Elko’s but they are a lot taller.”
In 2018, the Roadrunners finished a perfect 5-0 in the NorCal Conference of the California Community College Athletic Association, closing the year with a 9-2 overall record.
Jones said the coaches at Butte want him to play at kick returner and wide receiver.
During his senior season, he finished second in the state with 271 yards on kick returns in 10 attempts, his average of 27.1 yards ranking first among players with double-digit returns.
His long of 78 yards came on Sept. 29, 2018, in Truckee, California.
Jones ranked fourth in the state with 144 yards on eight punt returns, 87 of which came late in the first half for a touchdown in the Indians’ home playoff game against Lowry, on Oct. 25, 2018, at Warrior Field.
At running back, he finished eighth in the state and rushed for 863 yards on 108 carries — averaging eight yards per tote — tying for 17th in attempts.
He finished the season with nine rushing touchdowns, averaging a TD every 12 times he touched the football.
When not used as a ball carrier, Jones was dangerous when he left the backfield — catching 15 passes for 349 yards (11th in the state) with three receiving TDs.
He accounted for 57 percent of Elko’s total passing attack of 614 yards for the season.
His average of 23.3 yards per reception led the state among players with double-digit catches.
Jones is simply electric with the football in his hands and in open space.
Defensively, he tied for sixth in the state with four interceptions — recording one against Dayton and Fallon — notching a pick in each contest versus Lowry during the regular season and the first round of the playoffs.
From the edge of Elko’s field goal defense, Jones used his quickness and speed to beat the chip around the outside — blocking two kicks.
For the season, he finished with 57 tackles — notching a season-best 10 (nine solo) on Sept. 29, 2018, against the Wolverines.
One sport? Why not two?
“I think I’m going to play baseball there too. I’ll go talk to the baseball coach when I get to school,” Jones said.
Not just a one-sport pony, Jones is a racehorse.
As a junior, he was a 1st-Team All-League and 2nd-Team All-State center fielder — upping his performance to a 1st-Team All-State selection in the spring.
In his final season with the Indians, Jones tied his own school record for stolen bases, matching the mark he set last season — swiping 30 bags for the second straight year — leading the league by six steals over second place.
He stole a career-high four bases in a 14-0 victory on March 16, in Sparks.
Jones also swiped three bases in two games and racked up multiple steals in 10 contests.
With 49 hits, he topped Elko’s roster and ranked second in the 3A North — trailing only the 51 knocks by Fallon senior Edgar Alvarado — Jones’ .462 batting average pacing the Indians and placing fourth in the league.
His 126 knocks rank No. 1 in program history — surpassing the 124 hits set by EHS Class of 2016 graduate Benton Wickersham — and Jones’ 82 stolen bases are the most ever in the maroon and white.
On the season, he scored 36 runs, once again leading the team and finishing fourth in the 3A North.
His. 508 on-base percentage was the 11th-best clip in the 3A North, his two triples tying for 12th place.
Defensively, not many balls fell in center field or the left-center of right-center gaps, for that matter.
His speed and range allowed Jones to track down virtually everything hit his way, finishing the season with a perfect fielding percentage, not committing a single error in 51 chances — finishing the season with 49 putouts and two assists — tying for the best defensive season in school history with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
Jones closed the year with six doubles and drove in 18 runs, his best effort coming on May 9 during the regional tournament against what is now the two-time defending state champion, finishing 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, scoring three runs and stealing a base in an 11-9 loss to Truckee.
The contest served as one of Jones’ four three-hit ballgames of the season.
On March 22, he capped a six-run comeback with a walk-off infield single for a 9-8 win in the second game of a doubleheader versus South Tahoe.
As a three-year varsity starter, Jones posted a .376 batting average, a .442 on-base percentage, amassed 126 hits, scored 115 runs, drove in 58 runs and racked up 82 stolen bases — capping one of the most-storied careers in the history of Elko baseball.
He closed his career with 16 doubles, nine triples and two home runs — both coming inside the park.
Congratulations to Cooper Jones for one of the best athletic tenures in the history of Elko High School and best of luck while dashing for the Roadrunners of Butte College.