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Original Issue

Gritty Woman

Future Tar Heel Courtney Jones plays soccer with a toughness that impresses even her NFL dad

COURTNEY JONES was running at full speed when she planted hard—too hard—to get at a ball that had landed behind her. She fell, her left ankle shattered in five places. "Her foot looked like a croquet mallet," says her mother, Dana. Yet as she sat up and looked down at her foot, suddenly at a grotesque angle to her leg, Jones, then a freshman at Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif., didn't cry or yell. She only gave a little moan. "I was just frustrated," says Jones, now a junior and one of the nation's top players.

Jones may have inherited some of her toughness from her father, Brent Jones, the Pro Bowl tight end who spent 11 seasons going over the middle for the 49ers. He had been in Pittsburgh on the day of Courtney's injury, preparing to call a Steelers game for CBS, but he left immediately to be with his daughter, forcing the network to get a last-minute replacement. "I've had injuries to my shoulders, ankles, and even my ACL," says Jones, who retired from the NFL in 1997. "Her injury was more intense than any I've had."

Brent Jones—a spokesman for a group called Dads and Daughters, which encourages fathers to help with sports—is no mean supporter of his daughters' athletic careers. (Courtney's older sister, Rachel, is a soccer goalie at Cal Poly.) He drove her two hours a day, four days a week for six months to see specialists who had worked with him in his football days. Doctors thought Courtney, who needed three surgeries, might never play again, but after taking a year off to heal and rehab, she has thrived. A striker, she led Monte Vista with 14 goals and 13 assists in her sophomore year, committed to North Carolina, the nation's best soccer program, last summer and this season leads the East Bay Athletic League in scoring with seven goals and three assists after six league games. "I came back a smarter player," says Jones, who says she learned a lot by closely observing from the sideline.

Her coach, Greg Fish, says Jones's speed and strength seem hardly diminished. "She just moves so darn fast, she's hard to stop," Fish says. "Very similar to her dad."

Danville, Calif.



IMPRESSIVE FEET Jones overcame a devastating ankle injury and got her speed back.



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