Dre’Mont Jones’ father, Sanderline Williams, was a professional boxer.

The middleweight boxed some of the top fighters in the world, including James Toney twice and Iran Barkley, in an 11-year career that ended in 1993. He tried to introduce his three sons — Dionte, Darrin and Dre’Mont — to the sport.

“He wanted the kids to box,” Schontina Jones said of her husband. “But all three of them have a gentleness about them. They never wanted to fight.”

 

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Dre’Mont Jones is a fierce defensive tackle for Ohio State. After forgoing the NFL draft after last season, the Cleveland native leads the Buckeyes with nine tackles for loss and 5½ sacks.

“He’s one of our best players,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.

But off the field, he’s more of a jokester.

“He’s a child,” said his defensive linemate and road-game roommate Robert Landers. “He is a huge child. That boy, I love him to death. Great guy, great personality. Dre’Mont is always having fun, no matter the circumstance. He is kind of like me — bubbly and goofy.”

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One of Schontina Jones’ favorite TV shows as a kid was “My Three Sons.” When Dre’Mont was born 11 years after Darrin, she was overjoyed that her life mirrored the show.

“A pleasant surprise,” she said of Dre’Mont’s arrival. “A wonderful surprise.”

His unique name, Schontina said, is derived from a street name, Tremont, that her husband liked and the desire to have all three sons’ names begin with “D.” The apostrophe was added for a little flair.

From the start, Dre’Mont was a well-behaved, if energetic, kid.

“He has never given us any trouble, ever,” his mom said.

Basketball was his favorite sport, though it resulted in a couple of scary injuries. When he was 14 playing for his AAU team, an opponent with long fingernails swiped at a ball Jones held and ripped his right eye at his tear duct, causing blood to gush all over his face.

If the fingernail had hit him in a slightly different spot, the injury could have been devastating.

“I could have gone blind,” Jones said. “That’s what the doctor told me. That made me question a lot of decisions about playing basketball. It wasn’t a crazy turning point, but it made me more aware of what I should do in life.”

By then, Jones was about 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds and knew he wouldn’t get much taller. There’s not much demand for a power forward that size in college, so he switched his emphasis to football, though he continued playing basketball.

Jones expected to attend his local public high school, John Hay, where his friends went and which was close to Schontina’s job at the Cleveland Clinic. But his parents chose to send him to St. Ignatius, an all-boys parochial school with strong academics and a powerhouse athletic tradition.

“You hope you’re making the right decision and you pray on it,” Schontina said. “I felt it was a better opportunity for him. You want him to develop into his own person.”

But his parents didn’t tell Dre’Mont of their decision until he noticed they were driving in a different direction on the first day of school.

“He said, ‘You’re going the wrong way,’” Schontina said. “I said, ‘We know which way we’re going. We think this is the best decision for you.’ As we crossed the Lorain Bridge, he didn’t say anything to us, but a tear fell down his face. You would have thought we were taking him to prison.”

Jones eventually flourished at St. Ignatius, especially after he joined the varsity football team as a junior. He became a coveted recruit and signed with Ohio State in February 2015.

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A month later, Jones suffered a torn ACL in a playoff basketball game. That ended any hope of him playing for the Buckeyes in his first year on campus. He now considers that a blessing.

“It made me grow up,” he said. “I feel that for a lot of freshmen here, this is a throw-you-into-a-fire place. Luckily, I wasn’t thrown into that fire because I wasn’t physically capable to do it.

“I was able to watch from the sideline and understand how the coaches coach and how players react to certain things and how the whole program really works. I could sit back and learn from the older guys like Tyquan (Lewis), Tracy (Sprinkle), Sam (Hubbard) and Jalyn (Holmes). I felt like when it was finally my moment to actually do something, I took advantage of it.”

That moment came sooner than expected when Sprinkle was injured in the 2016 opener. Jones was thrust into the rotation and quickly emerged as a budding star.

After last season, it was widely assumed that Jones would enter the NFL draft. He said his parents and brothers wanted him to do so, while also saying they’d support his decision. In the end, it was the opinion of one dissenter, his friend Aaron Shields, that resonated with Jones.

“He said, ‘You should stay and graduate like you originally planned to do,’” Jones said.

And so he did. Jones is on track to graduate next month with a degree in sociology.

“He has an incredible mom and dad,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy who’s very serious about academics. He’s never been an issue off the field. He’s a model of our Real Life Wednesdays program. Everybody wants to hire a guy like that.”

The NFL is first in line. It’s practically a given that he will enter the draft this time, and he’s projected to be a first-round pick.

Schontina Jones said that she believes her son will now be ready to make the jump after the season.

“We are extremely proud of him,” she said. “He’s grounded. He set attainable goals that he has reached. He’s a wonderful son.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch