HELENA — Tucker Jones is a household name throughout the Treasure State — from deep in the Bitterroot Valley where he was an all-state linebacker at Hamilton High School all the way through the North Valley of Helena.
Now a linebacker on the Carroll College football team, Jones is eager to play November football.
“I honestly feel like every game this year has been too hot," Jones said. "It’s been a really warm preseason, so I’ve been kind of looking forward to the colder temperatures. ... Going out and practicing in the snow is not that bad, it’s pretty fun. I mean, it’s a little change of pace obviously, but you have that advantage coming on home games and whatnot, but I enjoy it."
Jones has become the defensive anchor for Carroll College since he joined the Fighting Saints in 2020 when he appeared in only four games for Carroll.
Last weekend, he helped the Fighting Saints defeat Southern Oregon 21-13 in Ashland, Oregon, to bounce back from their only loss of the season against the College of Idaho, 35-21, at Nelson Stadium the week before.
“As of now, (we're) controlling what we can control," he said. "Woke up this morning with about 8 inches of snow, so just kind of working through that and getting better each day, learning from last weekend and moving forward one week at a time."
“He’s one of our senior captains and just an outstanding football player … what you want as a middle linebacker," fifth-year head coach Troy Purcell said of his defensive quarterback. "He’s the general, he is the guy that gets everybody where (they) need to be and can get us into situations where we can get all 11 guys being successful.”
During his Carroll career, Jones has faced the C of I Yotes six times, winning four of those matchups. The key, and a focus this season for the Saints, is success in the fourth quarter.
"If you can get to the fourth quarter and compete all the way through, you may not have the best first half, but I think finishing the game strong and winning the game in the final quarter is really all that matters,” said Jones.
Jones leads the team with 50 tackles through eight games and is on pace to set his career high for a single season. He had 62 tackles in 2022.
Coach Michael Brunk is back coaching the linebackers and special teams for Carroll after spending last season at Eastern Michigan. Brunk was also on the Carroll staff in 2021.
“Coach (Brunk) does a really great job with the linebackers," Jones said. "He was at Eastern Michigan last year, so coming down from an (NCAA Division I) school, coming back here ... that’s always good to have that knowledge coming back, so it’s been really good."
Carroll, C of I and Montana Western each have just one loss in Frontier Conference play this season, creating pivotal matchups the next two weeks. Carroll hosts Western on Saturday with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. in Helena.
"Taking it day by day," Jones said, "trying to finish up the year strong."