WKU fullback Jones keeps practice loose, plays big in games

Sophomore fullback Kadeem Jones jokes with sophomore outside linebacker Xavius Boyd at practice Tuesday. Jones has accounted for seven touchdowns in 2011, the second-highest total on the team.

Brad Stephens

You won’t ever hear Kadeem Jones complaining about practice.

But you’ll hear plenty from him while he’s there.

“Sometimes you think you don’t want to be at practice,” the sophomore fullback said. “But there’s no better place in the world to be.”

A first-year starter, Jones has become one of the team’s vocal leaders.

The Dundee, Fla., native trots out of the WKU locker room every practice, dreadlocks swinging as he shouts to teammates and belts lines from songs he said he often makes up on the spot.

He continues joking around while the team is warming up, usually singing along with the rap and R&B music piped in through the stadium speakers.

Jones said Head Coach Willie Taggart has encouraged him to have fun whenever he’s on the field.

“Coach T always says if he sees me down, then he knows the rest of the team is going to be down,” Jones said. “It gives me a good feeling knowing other people on the team depend on me to get them juiced.”

While his energy may be getting teammates “juiced,” it’s his production that’s made Jones a rising offensive star.

Along with being the lead blocker for senior running back Bobby Rainey, he’s been relied upon by Taggart to run the ball in goal line situations.

The 5-foot-11, 270-pounder, a running back in his youth, has hammered his way into the end zone on six of his 17 carries.

Jones’ seven total touchdowns this season trail only Rainey’s 12.

“Kadeem is not a regular fullback. He’s more a skill guy,” Rainey said. “He’s the first one I’ve come across as being a real athletic fullback.”

It was his potential with and without the ball that led Taggart to pursue Jones, who was a self-described “under the radar” recruit.

Jones said Taggart sat in his living room and showed film of 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart, who Taggart coached during his time as Stanford running backs coach.

“He said he needed that kind of bruiser and wanted me to be the guy,” Jones said.

Eventually he and cousin Tyree Robinson took a campus visit and committed to WKU together in Taggart’s office.

Less than two years later both Jones and Robinson, a cornerback, are starters.

“We were pretty much raised in the same house, wore the same outfits, went to the same schools,” Jones said of he and Robinson. “We would’ve split up if we had to, but we wanted to stay together.”

Robinson, the more heavily recruited of the two, said Jones is playing the way he expected him to if given the chance.

“He always had it in him. He just had to find it,” Robinson said. “He knows what to do, and I’m happy for him.”

The running, blocking and singing fullback said his role as a motivational leader is summed up in an analogy given by offensive coordinator Zach Azzanni.

“He says you can either be the faucet or the drain,” Jones said. “And I’m definitely not the drain.”