By Seth Daniel
About seven years ago, Revere’s JJ Jones was told by his doctor that he was obese; he was only 11.
A bit of an outcast at school, and a bit different as well, he spent much of his time at home and was bullied relentlessly by some of the kids at his middle school in Revere.
None of it pointed to the life he is living now, which includes becoming part of one of the best cheerleading teams in the nation out in California and competing for a paid-bid world championship in the coming weeks. It’s a life where obesity and bullying have been left behind, but it didn’t come without some loving conversations from his dad, JJ Jones Sr. – a long-time Revere resident who is a police officer in Cambridge – and a big risk to leave home and pursue his dream in California during his senior year of high school.
“When being told by doctors at the age of 11 that I was obese, I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought I’d be where I am today,” Jones told the Journal this week. “As I grow daily as an athlete, being trained by the best instructors in the world, I am also growing as a person. I am becoming more disciplined, mature, and am taking responsibility for my actions daily.
“The level of competition and drive my team has is something I’ve dreamed of as an athlete,” he continued. “This is a team like no other, and I could not be anymore blessed. If anybody has an opportunity to take a risk and follow their dreams, please don’t hesitate. I can’t imagine what I would be missing out on if I didn’t take this adventure and run with it.”
His father said his son’s decision to leave Revere for San Diego, a decision he made at the end of last summer once being accepted into the California Allstars’ team ‘Cali Co-Ed.’ It was a move that made Jones Sr. very proud of the path his son had taken – from a homebody afraid to leave the house to a promising cheerleader in Revere Pop Warner to a standout Revere High cheerleader to the top of the game in California.
“If you have any knowledge of the cheer world, I don’t need to explain what a big deal this team is,” said Jones Sr. “If you are unfamiliar, it’s like going to Duke for basketball or Ohio State for football… It’s a bit difficult to really explain how very proud of him I am. Yes, I’m happy that he has reached a level of athletics that I never could in any sport, but it’s more than that. For years prior to finding cheering, he had a very difficult time in life outside of the home.”
Jones Sr. said his son had trouble being bullied and was overweight.
He was given all the support he needed at home, but lacked confidence when he was at school.
That led the family to suggest he pursue an interest in video editing. Jones Sr. said his son thrived at video editing and did a great job making incredible videos.
But it still didn’t get him out of the house, and his parents were concerned.
“We sat down for a difficult conversation,” said Jones Sr. “Concerns were explained, support was reaffirmed and he trusted enough to tell his ‘Jock’ dad that he wanted to be a cheerleader. The next day he was signed up for Revere Junior Patriots and the rest is history. From that day on, his world changed. We replaced the little movie studio with mats in the basement, and he buried himself there.”
Since that conversation, Jones has gone on to win national championships, travel the country with his teams and now finish out his high school experience in San Diego – living with family and competing at the highest levels of the sport.
Jones said he never forgets to think about his beginnings in Revere – even after winning a bid to the world championships in Orlando last weekend at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.
“I would never be here without all I’ve learned from cheerleading at home in Revere,” he told the Journal. “Starting as a Pop Warner Junior Midget, then moving on to a varsity cheerleader at Revere High molded me and gave me the confidence I needed to take this step. Coaches Julianne Esposito and Kristina Russo at RHS gave me the essential tools, courage, and everlasting support to move 3,000 miles away. They continually pushed, assisted, and encouraged me to be a California Allstars cheerleader. Whether it be a small pep talk, advice, or tips and tools, they never stopped being my coaches even after I wasn’t their athlete.”
Jones said he would be coming home for the holidays, and is looking forward to seeing all his friends in Revere. However, he is also eyeing that bid to Orlando, where his team figures to be in the running for a World Championship.
It’s a long way from his family’s Revere basement.