Green Bay Packers' RB Jones: 'The time is now' for Super Bowl glory

Aaron Jones shares heart-warming prom story from high school (2:11)

Packers running back Aaron Jones tells the story of the classmate he helped get voted prom king back in high school. (2:11)

"I want 33!" Three words which changed the life of a 22-year-old.

The phrase is often heard across Green Bay, WI. by men, women and children looking to purchase a Packers jersey. Once upon a time, it wasn't said at all.

These days, Aaron Jones is a franchise face of the Green Bay Packers - nationally acclaimed for his humanity, honesty and footballing feats. Like most in Green Bay, things start and end with one man: Aaron Rodgers.

To go forward we must travel back to Week 4, 2017 vs. Chicago, Jones had yet to play an offensive snap during his rookie year. There were superficial worries as to when it would arrive until Rodgers allayed all internal fear. Jones came off the sideline for a four-yard carry and on his fourth touch found himself in the end zone. The rest, as they say, is history. Yet to Jones, it feels quite the opposite.

"I remember it all like it just happened," Jones told ESPN. "That's how much it had an impact on me, and still impacts me. I thank him for that. I think it helped change my career for the better and gave myself even more confidence than I had. He's a future Hall of Famer, so when you're hearing a guy like that call for you, and want you in the game... it does a lot for a young person's confidence. It puts you on top of the world if a future Hall of Famer thinks you belong on the field with him."

Rodgers and Jones will be side-by-side this Saturday night (ET) as they welcome San Francisco for an NFC divisional showdown. The 13-4 Pack are favoured to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2011 as the NFC playoffs run through Lambeau permitting they stay alive.

Despite phenomenal regular season success, Green Bay have repeatedly fallen at the final hurdle - losing to San Francisco and Tampa in the previous two campaigns. This time however the signs are that things are going to be different. Why? Because the this vintage of the Packers has changed.

The players have taken the lead, regularly taking the responsibilities customarily bestowed to coaches with particular instructions resonating from veteran players. It's not uncommon for a teammate to have been coached within the group.

"We're a band of brothers, we love being around each other and it's always fun when we're together," Jones said. "We also play for each other, they're everything. When you line up you've gotta give a look to your left, a look to your right, and know your brothers have got your back no matter what the situation is, because you guys are pretty much stepping into a war."

Togetherness is vital to team success but it's far from an admission into the Super Bowl. Ask those who brave the frozen terraces at Lambeau, and only a Lombardi will suffice.

Will a loss at any moment be considered a failure inside the Green Bay locker room?

"For myself, yes. I won't speak for everybody [though]," Jones said. "We've been right there for the past two years and we've put in all this work. I genuinely feel like the time is now. It's definitely going to hurt if it doesn't turn out our way, but I am a true believer in speaking things into existence and manifesting it and praying for it. So, I believe it'll go our way."

Even if the Packers were to finally breakthrough, Rodgers could ride off into the sunset, leaving pastures old for newer horizons. If he's to be anywhere this offseason, Jones hopes the #12 will be alongside him in El Paso.

"A-Rod is really a loving person; he cares about everybody," he said. "I always tell people before you make a judgment on him, sit down and have lunch with him or something, because he's really an amazing, awesome dude and I'm glad that I've gotten the chance to get to know him and learn from him."

Despite the riches of his four-year, $48 million deal, Jones returns to The Sun City each offseason. The bright lights of New York, nor the luxuriance of the Caribbean can rival the satisfaction he gets from "home".

Jones stays at his family's El Paso home. Forget renting a mansion, that's not for him.

"For me, my family is my everything," Jones said. "They're all I have. So, I love being with them, love spending time with them and making sure they're okay.

"The other part is El Paso is home and it's always going to be home for me. The people there, they support me through and through, they've been supporting me since seventh grade up 'till now. I love just going back home in the offseason with the people who got to see me grow up and grow into what I am.

"There hasn't been a lot of people to make it from El Paso, so for the other, younger athletes or it may be athletics -- whatever it is -- I want them to know they can make it as well, not just me. I want them to be better when they make it and I want to be a resource for them."

Jones has been making an impact in his community long before his name was in lights. Just ask his high school friend Victor Mendoza, a special needs student who had a crowning moment he'll never forget.

While at Burges High School in El Paso, Jones became friends with Mendoza through a school initiative uniting special and general education students. Their friendship flourished during P.E. class and from there Jones came up with a strategy Matt LaFleur would be proud of.

"Vic's not able to walk, he's in a wheelchair and things like that, and I'm like 'you know, if Vic won this, he'd be happy and it'd just put a huge smile on his face. It'd change his life forever; he can always look around and say I was the prom king at my high school and you know who was there? Aaron Jones or his brother Alvin Jones and I beat [them] out'!

"It's not easy going to school every day like that and we don't know what kind of battles he struggles with mentally with that side, so we just wanted to celebrate him and I was glad he actually won it. We had shirts made, different things, it was amazing that he won. I felt like I won when he won."

The spotlight doesn't drive Jones. His humbleness ensures he's in the driving seat, perpetually pursuing family togetherness and on-field excellence. It may surprise many to know the steering wheel Jones grips is a 2003 Ford Explorer, the very same vehicle he's owned since high school.

"I feel like I don't need a new car, I can get from point A to point B. It still runs and it's been loyal to me, so I'm going to be loyal to it. It helps me save money!" Jones said.

The 27-year-old has grand visions of looking after his own, no different to many who achieve NFL stardom. It is his ultimate fulfillment.

"I've always had a dream of taking care of my parents, like having a little house for them in the back, my brother living with me -- him and his wife have one side of the house, I have the other side -- my sister may have another third with her family and just remaining under one roof and being one big, happy family," Jones said.

"At the end of the day, that's all you have."

The plan for Jones' family homestead is yet to come to fruition with his sister, niece and son spending time in El Paso currently. Jones' mother has remained by his side excluding "four or five days this season" - particularly poignant given his father's passing on April 6, 2021.

Life has been difficult for Jones without his greatest influence. Alvin Sr. attended every college and professional game of Jones' career, offering advice and a hug before each game. Despite his on-field demeanour looking identical to previous, Jones has understandably suffered.

"I would be crying right before the game and try and pull myself together and go play," Jones explained. "I don't want to say that affected my game but I also knew my head just wasn't clear.

"This past month, I told my mom: 'Mom, I feel like I [am] -- not over it -- but I'm finally not going out there looking for him'."

As for what Jones learnt most from his father?

"Whatever you do, you do it with your heart and you do it with love."

This Saturday evening, high above Lambeau, Jones Sr. will be in a green and gold #33. With some fortune the man beside will provide the Pack the inspiration. Jones would be more than deserving.