Retired NFL star Donald Jones returning to Lackawanna

Retired NFL star Donald Jones returning to Lackawanna

Former Buffalo Bills wide receiver to hold book signing, share inspirational message of perseverance.

SCRANTON, Pa. – Lackawanna College alumnus Donald Jones will make a special return to the College's main campus in Scranton on Monday, Oct. 26.

Jones, a member of the class of 2008 and retired NFL player, will hold a book signing for "The Next Chapter: Scoring against Kidney Disease," from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the main lobby of Angeli Hall, 501 Vine St., Scranton. The book documents his journey from his roots in Plainfield, N.J., through his development as an athlete at Lackawanna and Youngstown State, his professional football career with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, and his ongoing battle with IgA nephropathy, a very common yet incurable kidney disease.

Jones was originally diagnosed with the disease as a sophomore at Lackawanna.

"It was rough when I first felt sick in my final spring semester there," he recalled. "We were playing basketball, and I just didn't feel right. I went to the doctor and saw some things that were, of course, abnormal. That was scary in itself.

"Then to go home and be diagnosed with a kidney disease was a big shock to me and my family. At the same time, being so young, I was in denial which a lot of young people are when dealing with health issues."

Jones continued to play as he transferred to Youngstown and was eventually drafted by the Buffalo Bills as a free agent. In three seasons at Buffalo from 2010 to 2013, Jones completed a total of 82 receptions for 887 yards and six touchdowns in 35 games, according to official NFL statistical records. He was also briefly signed under contract with the Patriots in 2013, retiring later that year.

"I never really let it affect me until I retired," Jones said of the disease. "The doctors wanted to put me on certain medications, and I said, 'No, I'm not going to do that because it's going to affect my ability to play and perform at a high level.'"

Jones battled the fatigue commonly associated with the disease throughout his time with the Bills, but by the time he had reached the Patriots' camp it had also affected his affinity for football.

"I was very sick, and I would come back to my room from practice. I was supposed to be studying my playbook, but I was writing my book and watching the NBA playoffs," he recalled with a laugh.

"Because I was sick, I didn't have the love for the game anymore. The playbook up in New England was very tough to learn, and I didn't have that love to do it anymore. I knew I needed to get this story out, so I just started writing."

Jones jokes that the transition from rising NFL star to health advocate was an unusual one and that keeping his own schedule was the hardest part.

"When you're in the NFL, you kind of have everything done for you – your schedule, where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there. It's been a rough transition, but it's well worth it," he said, laughing.

"If you had asked me years ago what I'd be doing with my life, I definitely wouldn't have told you that I'd be one of the leaders in the health and wellness space," he added. "To change roles and come out of the NFL is sort of bittersweet. To be honest with you, I'm happy that I'm a leader in this space."

When he visits Lackawanna next week, he hopes his message of perseverance resonates with all students and with student athletes.

"The biggest thing for me is to speak with the current athletes and students, for them to hear my story and know that I was in their shoes just a few years ago. I want them to know that they can get to the next level, whatever that is," he said.

So far, "The Next Chapter: Scoring against Kidney Disease" has been well-received, reaching many with its inspirational message.

"It's about learning how to take care of yourself and be able to fight through the things that you're going through," Jones said. "There's going to come a time where you hit a bump in the road and say, 'I'm going to have to fight through this.'"

Copies of the book will be available on Monday for $15. The book signing is open to the public. More information about "The Next Chapter" is available at www.donaldjones.info.

Aside from the book signing, Jones said he's looking forward to speaking with College President Mark Volk and exploring the new additions to the downtown campus.

"Things have changed as far as the size of the campus. They've bought some more buildings and things like that. Every time I come through there, it's always interesting to think back to where I started," he said.

Book Cover for
The Next Quarter

Donald Jones at Lackawanna College's 2015 Commencement