Preston Jones, who spent the last 15 years coaching the Perry High School football program, has announced his retirement, school Athletic Director Jennifer Burks announced in a press release Thursday morning.
Jones said Thursday afternoon he had conversations with his family the last four or five years about when it would be time for him to hang up his whistle. They weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided now is the right time.
“I was very hesitant because if you want to be a head football coach, in my opinion, this is the best job in the state,” Jones said. “I was never going to leave here and go somewhere else.”
Jones was hired to build the Perry program in 2007, when the school opened. One year later in 2008, the Pumas played their first season of football as an independent school outside of an official region or conference.
But despite being new, it didn’t take long for them to have success.
The Pumas made their first playoff appearance in 2009, falling to Chaparral in the opening round. Jones went on to coach Perry to the postseason 10 more times, including back-to-back trips to the 6A championship game in 2017-18 with Brock (2017) and Chubba (2018) Purdy at quarterback. In total, the Pumas went 90-57 under Jones.
Jones helped 87 players go on to play at the next level, including Brock at Iowa State and Chubba at Florida State. Chubba is now in the transfer portal. As a result of his success on the field, Jones was named Cardinals Coach of the Year twice in 2016-17.
He said he has received several messages from his former players after news of his retirement broke. Some of them he said he hasn’t heard from in years.
“There’s guys from way back when out of the blue reaching out,” Jones said. “That has made it real special.”
Jones’ journey through football began as a player under his father, Jim, at Red Mountain High School. It was there Jones began to make a name for himself as a defensive back. He earned a scholarship offer to the University of Tennessee-Martin where he went on to play safety. Upon graduating, he returned to the Valley and became an assistant coach at McClintock High School.
In 2000, he became a graduate assistant at Missouri before landing his first head coaching gig at Highland two years later. Jones led the Hawks to the playoffs the last three years of his tenure, including the semifinals in 2004 where they fell to powerhouse Hamilton.
While retired, Jones hasn’t completely closed the door on being an assistant football coach. He said on some occasions he has gone down to coach the lower-level offensive line group in the Perry football program. Five years ago, he coached the freshman for a few weeks. This past season he helped one day with the junior varsity program. Both times he said were the most fun he’s ever had coaching.
“I don’t need to be a head coach anymore,” Jones said. “I’m going to sit out of football for a year and if I miss it tremendously, I’m going to see if someone will let me help them out as an assistant. Opening a new school was tough. I would never do it again, but I would highly recommend it to anybody.”
Burks wrote in a release that the search for Perry’s new head football coach would begin immediately, and the position would be open until Dec. 31. She also went on to thank Jones for his 15 years of dedication to the football program and school.
“The Perry and CUSD administration would like to thank him for his service to the thousands of players who were fortunate to have learned under his guidance,” Burks wrote. “Coach Jones opened Perry High School in 2007 and has been our only head football coach. He has created traditions, held high expectations, and modeled his vision, passion, dignity, and integrity to his coaching staff and athletes throughout his career.”
Jones said his year – or more – away from the game will involve him being there for his kids and his wife.
“I’m going to be the best dance dad I can possibly be,” Jones said. “I’m going to really enjoy watching my other daughter play basketball as much as possible. I think my wife has a list about four pages long of things that need to be done as well.
“I might decide to come back and be a head coach just so I don’t have to worry about the list anymore.”