Notre Dame Fighting Irish senior WR TJ Jones took advantage of a very rare and cool opportunity this summer when he went down to The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, FL. He was able to take some time off from working out to do something that many people would say is on their bucket list.
Jones discussed his aquatic interests with the Notre Dame website:
“I’ve always had an interest in aquatics, but decided to put it to the side because there wasn’t a degree here for it,” Jones says. “Instead, I decided I would try to step into the broadcast world.”
Although taking classes to prepare him for a career in broadcasting, Jones was unable to shake his lifelong interest in aquatic biology and marine life.
“I don’t know when my mind changed, but I decided to contact Reggie Brooks, the manager of football alumni relations for the Notre Dame Monogram Club (and a former All-America running back for the Fighting Irish), to see if we had any connections in the aquatics and marine life field,” Jones recalled.
Brooks was able to get Jones in touch with Casey Coy, the director of dive operations at The Florida Aquarium, and forwarded Jones his contact information. Jones did not need any goading to make the phone call to Coy; he was extremely proactive throughout the entire process and took matters into his own hands. This was not just a publicity stunt; it was a true passion for Jones.
Jones spent some time learning about sharks and learning to dive prior to entering the tank and swimming with sharks. And even though he was inexperienced, Jones said that he wasn’t ever scared.
“I wasn’t anxious at all; I was actually pretty calm. I was more ready to soak up the atmosphere and the experience. I really had no worries or anxieties at all,” Jones noted.
So what was Jones’ biggest fear before plunging into a tank full of aquatic carnivores?
“I just hoped the water wasn’t too cold,” Jones said with a laugh.
The trip was also quite an educational one for Jones.
“Being inside the tank, you get to see the aquarium from very different perspectives. You get to see up close and in real life the way that sharks, fish, eels, and turtles all interact with one another. You get to see that sharks aren’t really as ferocious and violent as everyone thinks. You leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone,” Jones explained.
Since the experience was a lifelong passion for Jones, he obviously couldn’t keep from having some fun with it.
“Kids were outside the tank saying, `Is he going to get bit?’ and asking why I was in there. You can’t hear that being in the water, but it’s a form of entertainment for me because you’re doing something that they could never see themselves doing,” Jones recalled.
This looks like it was an awesome experience, and I’m very jealous of Jones.