Making adult decision has defined the better part of life for Alexisius "Q" Jones.
Make no mistake, the Fountain-Fort Carson running back is still very much a kid. He flashes a childish, yet confident smile when asked about his accomplishments on the football field. But he understands the full scope of those accomplishments and how they'll help shape his life for the next 40 years after making an athletic and academic commitment to Dartmouth College.
Jones' story isn't one of consistent, big-time success on the football field. In fact, his story and current life trajectory is a story that sounds more suited for a Disney movie than anything.
"Both of my parents were in and out of jail and up until my sixth grade year, I was actually in a lot of trouble with the authorities," Jones said. "It was my dad that helped me turn my life around."
Eventually, Jones landed at Fountain Middle School for his seventh grade year.
"After that, I changed my ways," he said.
Change didn't come without a little bit of help. He was pushed onto the football field by the middle school's coach Paul Mileto — who also serves as the boys basketball coach at Fountain-Fort Carson High School.
It was a big step. A broken arm in fourth grade made the idea of contact sports terrifying for Jones' mom so he was largely kept out of athletic activities. Instead he was hanging out with friends and at times getting in trouble.
The athletic culture in Fountain had an appeal, though. Jones found that the community truly cared about its athletic teams and because of that, those involved in the athletic programs greatly cared about the kids.
When Jones started playing for Mileto, he casually threw out a common dream for young athletes: He wanted to play Division I football. Mileto didn't immediately rattle off what kind of workouts he needed or the physical measurements that are common for athletes playing at that level.
He stressed the most important aspect of making sure playing high-level college sports was possible.
"He told me if you have a 3.5 GPA or better, you'll get to the places you want to be," Jones said.
Jones took it personally.
"Usually teachers would request kids to be in higher (level) classes," Jones said. "No teacher did that for me. It made me upset. I know I'm smart. I know I can do the work."
So he did. He shined in the classroom the same way he shined on the football field during a standout sophomore season.
Then disaster struck.
A leg injury late in the season derailed the football part of his plan for over a year. Jones played in just one game his junior season, but immediately realized something wasn't right. He continued to heal and rehab through the year and began to appreciate the game from a different perspective.
"The whole journey of my injury, I was just worried about not getting recruited," Jones said. "I was fine with doing the rehab, I was fine working out because that's just stuff I love doing as an athlete."
It paid off. When the football season was green-lit for this fall, a healthy Jones hit the ground running. Far and fast.
In eight games he rushed for 1,853 yards and 19 touchdowns, leading the state across all classifications. He quickly regained the form he held when he was just a sophomore. There was just one problem: the recruiting looks he was getting at that time weren't as strong.
At one point, he was hearing regularly from Darian Hagan at the University of Colorado, but when head coach Mel Tucker abruptly left Boulder for another job, those conversations were few and far in between.
This fall was when Dartmouth really started paying attention. When they realized his grades were strong enough for Ivy League enrollment, they offered him a chance to keep playing football and get an Ivy League education in the process.
"I wouldn't have guessed even three years ago that this would be his choice," Trojans coach Jake Novotny said. "Some of it has probably changed because of COVID and the recruiting cycle and how that fell, but he told me Dartmouth was his choice because it was going to challenge him in football and it would also be an academic challenge. And he likes new challenges."
By no means does this indicate a belief that he only has four years of football left in him. But between experiencing rough patches early in his life and a year where he couldn't physically play football, he bad to assess his post-high school priorities a little differently.
"My injury definitely woke me up," Jones said. "It was one of those wake-up calls that football can end any day. People always tell me when football's over it comes back to your backup plan or your brain. That's another reason I chose Dartmouth."
An 18-year-old kid with the ability to play FBS football instead made an adult decision. And he holds no hesitation or regret in that choice. He's going to continue to perform at his very best both on the gridiron and in the lecture hall.
It's all a part of his plan for his life. He's not looking to succeed as a football player or succeed as a student. He just wants to succeed.
"I think he's a lot of life; a lot more life than most adults see at 30 or 40," Novotny said. "He's had to make adult decisions since he was in the fourth and fifth grade."
It was tough at the time. But those decisions helped Jones shape his very bright future.