Jones made most of short stay with Blue

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

He was the on-field general who led the Winnipeg Blue Bombers out of the Reinebold-created wilderness.

And, in 2001, quarterback Khari Jones was just one blocked punt short of capturing Winnipeg's first Grey Cup victory since 1990.

"I felt bad about losing that game but, looking back, we played our hearts out," Jones recalled from Hamilton recently. "My stats were pretty much the same as (Calgary quarterback Marcus Crandell's) but we just made critical mistakes at key times, like the blocked punt.

"I remember getting a concussion, then came back and threw a touchdown pass to (slotback) Milt (Stegall) after the blocked punt and it was all fuzzy."

Jones had banged his head on a metal door at Olympic Stadium, taking a chip out of his helmet.

But that loss robbed Jones of capping off his best season as a ball tosser -- earlier in the week, he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player.

In just four short years, Jones moved into second spot on the club's all-time passing list with 20,175 yards. He holds Bomber marks for most yards passing in one season (5,334), most consecutive 4,000-yard seasons throwing (four) and most consecutive 3,000-yard seasons (four). Jones also holds single-season club marks for most touchdown passes (46, third on the all-time CFL list) and completions (382).

Earned 49th spot

For those accomplishments, Jones has earned the 49th spot on The Winnipeg Sun's top 75 Bombers of all time.

"That feels fantastic with the long history that the Bombers have," said Jones. "I had a fun time playing up there. Of course, it's always fun when you're winning."

And they won a lot with Jones at the helm.

"I don't know if we had the best talent but we did find ways to win games," said Jones, 34. "We had a great time and we were like family, doing things both on and off the field together. I definitely will look back on those years fondly."

But the fondest was 2001, despite the way it ended, "because people didn't really know what to expect," Jones said. "People didn't know if we were for real. Then we won 12 straight games and beat Hamilton in the playoffs.

"And playing the Grey Cup in front of 68,000 fans is an experience I'll never forget."

But after that, the Bombers failed to live up to loftier expectations.

"People just don't realize how hard it is to win football games in this league," Jones said. "We had won so quickly that they started to take us for granted. We went 11-7 and people were going, 'What's happening? What's wrong with the Bombers?' And we lost players like (receiver) Arland Bruce (III) and (linebacker Brian) Clark because the club could not afford to keep them."

Although the Bombers finally dealt Jones to Calgary in a blockbuster deal at the end of last year, that was not the low point of his CFL career.

"I had definitely planned on retiring as a Bomber but they got the players they wanted and my time was done," said Jones, who battled a mysterious shoulder problem last year. "It really helped me going to Calgary for the last three games. I got my spark back because it was tough going through what we had been going through.

"The lowest point of my career was when (Sun columnist Paul Friesen) wrote about me golfing when I was supposed to be injured. That questioned my character and I really let my emotions get away from me because he doesn't know how many times I went out there and played with different things wrong with my body."

Jones has since made peace with the writer.

"On the whole, I look at my experience there very positively."


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