He never scored a touchdown, threw a pass or made a tackle and you never head his name called over the speakers at Vanderbilt Stadium. But for the last seven years Fred Jones was just as an important part of the Commodores football program as head coach Derek Mason or any player who suited up on a Saturday.
How important was Jones to Vanderbilt Football? The Commodores rarely made a move without him.
Jones didn't have an office inside McGugin Center and wasn't a full-time employee of the university. His full-time job was a driver for Old Dominion Freight Lines where he drove a big rig by day and did the same for Vanderbilt Football on weekends, hauling the team's equipment to every road venue throughout the country.
Born and raised in Middle Tennessee, Jones, a graduate of Antioch High School lived in Murfreesboro with his three daughters, Chloe 10, Lexi 16, and Gracie 19, and loved Vanderbilt.
Jones passed away last week after being diagnoses with pancreatic cancer in December. It was a short bout that ended far too soon and took away a part of the Commodores program that most people, myself included knew nothing about before his passing.
Head coach Derek Mason shared his thoughts on Jones via social media on Monday.
" Vandy football mourns the loss of our long time team equipment truck driver Fred Jones today after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Always a team player & supporter of @VandyFootball, Fred was laid to rest with his bowl rings & VU Football hat. He will be missed 100%."
Mason wasn't the only staff member who will miss Jones.
“Fred was part of our football family. He was humble and served the team in his role as the equipment truck driver since 2013. For road games that means, arriving on Thursdays to load and take the gear to the destination and coming home immediately after the game. He not only drove but was a helping hand wherever needed. I always enjoyed talking with Fred during those times between arrival at the stadium on game day and kickoff," said Jason Grooms, assistant athletic director for football at Vanderbilt. "No matter the outcome of the game, Fred always thanked us and provided words of encouragement. But we always thanked him for his time, work, and loyalty to the program. He will be greatly missed by our program and we offer our sincerest condolences to his daughters and family. He was our guy.”
Jordan Hunt, the equipment manager for Vanderbilt worked with Jones for the past three years, and shared his thoughts on Jones.
"Fred was the kind of guy you could always count on. He went above and beyond the call of duty. He was a caring person that loved Vanderbilt and would do anything he could for the University," said Hunt. "I know we will really miss Fred."
Jones took over driving duties, ironically from his brother Danny seven years ago, but like so many others who never see the spotlight, their dedication and efforts help produce the things we see on Saturdays.
Fred Jones will never see his name in the Vanderbilt Athletics record books, but those who knew and worked with him will remember him fondly.
Rest in peace, Fred.