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March 20, 2012
TUSCALOOSA | Spring break for most college students is just that -- a break.
For University of Alabama football players Barrett and Harrison Jones, it was anything but a break.
The brothers traveled with family to Jinotega, Nicaragua, on a five-day service mission during the break.
"Really it was a different kind of trip. Usually I guess our trips are a little more work centered," Barrett Jones said. "This one was more about sharing my faith - for everyone on the trip to share their faith. I got a chance to go into classrooms and really explain to kids ... what we believed and why we believed it."
Joined by parents Rex and Leslie and younger brother Walker, a Memphis high school senior and a college football prospect himself, Barrett and Harrison were part of a group of 31 who traveled to Central America for the mission trip.
"I think it goes to show how much leadership and character the entire family has," said UA coach Nick Saban. "Certainly the two young men we have here in our program, that they would be so giving of themselves to go serve others, which they've done on a consistent basis. I think it speaks volumes for who they are and what they're all about. They're as fine a young men as you're ever going to be around."
Jinotega, located in the mountains of Nicaragua, is south of Honduras and north of Costa Rica, across the Caribbean Sea from Haiti, where the Jones brothers volunteered over spring break last year. The economy there is supported heavily by coffee bean production, but the way of life is still far more of a struggle than what most Americans are accustomed to.
"It is not as poor as Haiti. You can tell that the kids have more money, just in general, society has more money than Haiti," the younger Jones said. "But they are still poor and there's still poverty. Things we take for granted in the U.S., they don't have."
Barrett, the defending Outland Trophy winner as college football's top lineman, chose the new destination for this year's trip. Harrison, a third-year sophomore who is vying for playing time at tight end, said they visited an orphanage, as well as playing soccer and baseball with the children.
"To me it's just so much more rewarding and there is so much more return and impact to go on these trips than to go to the beach. I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the beach," Barrett Jones said. "I've been to the beach 50 times, probably. But I always tell people that I have been to the beach 50 times, and I don't really remember one time that I've been to the beach. I just kind of remember going there and sitting in the sand and sitting in the pool and doing it all over again the next day. But when you do a thing like this, it really makes an impact in your life, and you remember it forever."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.