This month's cover story features Jonathan Jones, Brandon King and Obi Melifonwu of the Super Bowl LIII Winning Champions New England Patriots. The road to success is one that is truly a journey that isn't a straight line. In our interview we hear how these teammates fell in love with the game, made their way to the Patriots and how they get ready for their games every week! In addition, we also had the opportunity to talk with their Sports Agent, Sean Stellato of SES Sports, whose own life has been infused with sports as an athlete who then made the Jerry McGuire transition to being on the other side of the ball. The relationship between players and the agent is essential to their success.
Our shoot took place in Tribeca at the Serafina Tribeca, which is one of our favorite places for Italian comfort food. When it comes to hospitality and having the right vibe for a celebration, the General Manager, Christian Ferrara makes everyone feel at home while educating them on his cuisine and culture.
ATHLEISURE MAG: When did you realize that you wanted to play professional football and what was your journey to get to the New England Patriots?
JONATHAN JONES: I grew up loving watching the games as young as when I was 3 or 4 years old. I played high school football in Georgia and high school football in Georgia is just big! I went to Auburn, we won a National Championship. Leaving Auburn, I was a free agent and I chose to come to New England and it was probably the best decision of my life honestly as I have had the chance to go to 3 straight Super Bowls. It’s been a great journey as far as the NFL goes! But for my entire journey to come from where I come from to make it to the Patriots, it’s been a blessing!
AM: Tell us about the position you play and who do you work with closely on that portion of the team?
JJ: I play defensive back cornerback and mostly we work with the safeties and sometimes the linebackers.
AM: During the season what is your week like in terms of practicing to get to Sunday’s game?
JJ: After a game on Sunday, you come in on Monday and first thing you want to handle and collect everything from the previous game. You then want to start working on your body. Tuesday is a day of recovery for your body getting a massage, getting treatments for pains that took place from the last game. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is all about training and practice. Saturday, it just depends on whether it is a home or an away game. But, it’s a full week and Tuesday isn’t like a day off, but more like a day to get ready.
AM: What are 3 songs that are on your playlist that get you ready for whatever game you’re playing?
JJ: It’s always a classic with me with Young Jeezy – it doesn’t even matter what song it is! Right now I have Little Baby on my playlist and I’m from Georgia so any of the Georgian rappers that are out right now – they’re there too!
AM: What does it feel like to be a 2 X Super Bowl Winning Champ?
JJ: It feels great to win Super Bowl LI and LIII. To get there every time is always the goal. I’ve been there 3 years in a row and to win 2 of them is amazing. A lot of people never even get there so for me to be there 3 times and to have won 2 is great! Every year you get there, you have to refocus and remember what you did last time to get there and how great you were at that time to win.
AM: What is it like in the off season as you prepare for the regular season?
JJ: The first thing is to get your mind and body right. You have to take the time during the off season. You want to make sure that you spend time for yourself, with your friends and family. But then it’s like you’re right back to when it’s time to go back and you also want to make sure that you stay in shape as well. It’s a quick turnaround and you have to be ready.
AM: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
JJ: My goal is to develop my game and become more of a leader within the team and to definitely work on my game with me being a young player. I want to continue to improve.
AM: How do you define your personal style? What do you wear when you’re going out for fun or when it’s a special night out.
JJ: My personal style is always about being casual with nice jewelry. I’m a laid back person. When it’s about going out, you can never go wrong with a nice shirt and jeans with nice shoes. It’s always an easy fix.
AM: Now that you’re able to relax what are 3 shows that you’ll binge on Netflix?
JJ: Oooo 3 Daredevil, The Punisher and Iron Fist.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was your journey to get to the New England Patriots?
BRANDON KING: I went to Thompson High School in Alabama that was home for me. It was a pretty small town and in my senior year there, we got a movie theater and a Walmart which was pretty big for our town. Now, my high school is the biggest high school in the state which just goes to show how much it has grown! When I was there it was much smaller. During my junior year, coaches started coming in and recruiting and I talked to a lot of teams, but ended up falling short in my senior year by .03 to meet NCAA requirements.
A lot of people in my family were so happy that they thought I would be going to a Division I school on scholarship. So when I didn’t, a lot of people just put me on the back burner and a lot of people stopped talking to me because they felt that I was just going to be back at the house. But I knew what I wanted to do and I played for 2 years at Highland Community College in Kansas. At the time, I thought that I would be there for a year and then transfer to a Division I school, but that’s not how it turned out. I kept my head down to do what I needed to do so that I could continue to play football. I did well there and I got a lot of awards which I’m not big on as I believe the past is the past. You need to continue to work to do the things you need to do to be where you are. By staying there and doing the work, I got a scholarship to go to Auburn and transferred there. I played safety there and shortly after getting there, there was an injury to Justin Garrett the star linebacker which was a hybrid position between linebacker and safety so I changed to that position and I played that for most of my Junior year and then moved to linebacker. My senior year, I ended up breaking my thumb a week or two right before my first game of that year. I did everything that I could do to just stay at full speed. I treated everything with full respect, all of my teachers and anybody that could or would help me. I always had a smile on my face when I walked around as just having the opportunity to be there at Auburn was everything. Even in the worse times, you still have to smile. While at Auburn, I played linebacker, defensive end and safety. I was always ready for any opportunity and for people to see that I could do those positions being 225-226lbs was important and showed that I am versatile.
My senior year at Auburn, I was trying to do an internship while I was a full time student and trying to train for the NFL. I didn’t have an agent or anything like that because I didn’t have any money for that. When I was at Auburn, I played multiple positions, I was still under the radar for the most part. When I first got to Auburn, I just worked out with the strength coaches and I really appreciate them, because they prepared us very well in developing the athletes overall. I ended up just being there and working everyday and working in the schedule to actually be able to workout and I had to be productive and just go about a different way. I just came to work everyday and I don’t think it really matters, I have been in the league for 4 years and I still haven’t gone to a facility or trained with a specific individual. Being at Auburn and being with those coaches, they laid out what you had to and it wasn’t a big deal for me to get it done that way. After Pro Day came, I think I did pretty well and I walked up to the Canadian coaches and whoever was there and I wanted to shake everyone’s hands and to tell them thank you for coming by. We had all 32 NFL coaches there for our Pro Day I believe, to check out the talent. I tried to take the initiative to shake everyone’s hands that I could to show my appreciation. I did the same thing my last day at Auburn. Whether you were a positive influence or a negative influence, that’s what makes a person a person. Sometimes, people don’t realize that there is beauty in the pain and wherever you are in life, you can smile and do what you have got to do in life.
After that, I went back to work and I didn’t get any calls and then I got a call from one team with a contract. I just wanted to put my best foot forward and did everything I could do to play professionally – I didn’t want any regrets. That team called me and woke me up out of my sleep and I knew the dream was still alive and then a few days later, I got another call from another team and then I got a workout schedule from the Patriots and I never visited the Patriots or anything like that. I never went to check out the facility. I just had a workout set up at Samford University in Birmingham, AL and had an individual workout with him and it was the only thing I did. I got an opportunity to go out to other teams for my time to shine as a free agent. I wasn’t worried about the money it was finding the right opportunity – I chose the Patriots and I have been there ever since.