Niyo: Lions’ Marvin Jones, family healing from heartbreak of losing infant son

Detroit News

They’ve spent the last eight months trying to heal — together as a family — so it’s easy to understand why Lions receiver Marvin Jones wouldn’t be eager to dig into a scar that’s still fresh and painful, just because a relative stranger asks.

But Jones, in a media session ahead of next week’s official start of training camp in Allen Park, did share a few thoughts on the heartbreak he and his wife, Jazmyn, and their four children, endured last December after the Jones’ 6-month-old son, Marlo, died suddenly.

Less than 48 hours after that tragedy occurred, the Jones’ family was in attendance for the Lions’ season finale, part of an emotional scene at Ford Field, where the team held a moment of silence in Marlo’s honor before kickoff.

“I’m just going to say this: It was an experience that I very much appreciated. The Lions showed love, and (so did) the fans and my teammates,” Jones said on a video conference call Thursday following a workout at the team’s practice facility. “It was just a powerful moment that I think was good for us, good for my family. That’s pretty much all I’ll say about that. My son’s in a better place, and that makes me happy.”

Happiness is a family trait for the Jones clan, as anyone who knows them — or follows the veteran receiver’s social media feeds can attest. From basement roller-skating parties and karaoke nights to TikTok challenges and Fortnite competitions, it’s non-stop love and laughter, all of it involving his three boys — Marvin III, Mareon, Murrell — and young daughter Mya.

Finding support

But one thing that helped Jones find solace this winter was the outpouring of support he and his wife received in the wake of Marlo’s death.

“I think what gives me strength is, you find out that there’s a lot of stories of people that stuff like that has happened to them, losing a family member,” Jones said. “Obviously, that’s the first time that’s happened to me on a level of that magnitude. But just hearing from a lot of other people, hearing their voices and their experiences (has helped).

“I don’t think you can ever really fully cope with it — I have my days — but at the same time, there are thousands and thousands of people who reached out to me about their experiences.”

And when the coronavirus pandemic ground things to halt nationwide, maybe this was the silver lining. It gave Jones a much-needed extended offseason at home in San Diego.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Jones said. “Obviously, everybody in this world can say that, based on everything that’s happened and continues to happen. But it’s been, for me, a time of family — staying with my family during quarantine, just spending time with family.”

And whenever he could, taking time — and money — to “recognize there are people out there risking their lives for everybody during this virus. That was one of my main goals early on.” Back in April, Jones and his wife donated 1,000 meals — as well as 250 cakes from his wife’s “Nothing Bundt Cakes” store in Troy — to Henry Ford Hospital in Wyandotte. They also partnered with a local restaurant in San Diego to do something similar for healthcare workers there.

All the while, Jones continued to train at the “good ol’ BZN training facility,” as he calls his home gym and outdoor additions, which include a 60-yard turf field, sand court and running hill. (“BZN,” short for “buzzin’,” is the lifestyle and fashion trademark Jones and a business partner coined years ago.)

“So I pretty much was getting in every day and grinding and it actually did a lot for me in terms of being ready and having my body ready and prepared,” said Jones, a ninth-year pro who turned 30 in March. “It was pretty much business as usual in terms of what I do in the offseason, how I prepare and how I get into this thing.”

Jones has finished each of the past two seasons on injured reserve, missing the final three games of 2019 after he suffered an ankle injury in a Week 14 loss at Minnesota. He still finished tied for second on the team with 62 catches last season, totaling 779 receiving yards and hauling in nine touchdowns, four of which came in an earlier loss to the Vikings at Ford Field.

‘Excitement is definitely up’

And paired with emerging star Kenny Golladay, as well as veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola, tight end T.J. Hockenson and others, Jones is eager to see what this Lions’ offense can do, with a healthy Matthew Stafford entering Year 2 with coordinator Darrell Bevell.

“We’re definitely excited,” said Jones, who also hosted rookie wideout Quintez Cephus to his San Diego home for a few days of workouts earlier this summer. “It’s going to be big, just because (of) the people that we have. You look to the left, you look to the right, and we have ballers, you know? That’s something that’s very exciting.

“And obviously this is our second year in Bevell’s offense, which we love. So, yeah, the excitement is definitely up, and we’re just glad that we’re all here together and finally getting some football done. That’s been big, to come up here and see my brothers and really go out there and not miss a beat, because we all have experience in this offense. And obviously we added new pieces that are going to come in and do great. The sky’s the limit.”

Of course, the horizon might not be far off for Jones, either. He’s making $6.5 million in salary this season, and carrying a $9.2 million cap hit in the final year of the free-agent deal he signed with the Lions back in 2016 — Bob Quinn’s first big splash as the Lions’ general manager. With Golladay in line for a hefty contract extension — perhaps before the regular season begins — Jones knows this could be his last run in Detroit.

But for now, there are more pressing concerns, both for him and his family, which will stay home in San Diego this fall for the first time since he joined the Lions. In past seasons, they’ve spent the fall living in suburban Detroit, before returning to California in January.

“This year, it’s a little bit different, mainly because my kids are getting older, and they’re in sports and stuff like that,” said Jones, who for years has helped coach his sons’ flag football teams with former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “That was gonna happen even before the pandemic started.”

The shift to online learning in schools due to COVID-19 restrictions made that decision a little easier. So did the new addition to the family, Fuego, a 9-week-old red European Doberman the Jones’ recently brought home from a breeder in Oregon. (“My first time on a private jet,” Jones laughed, “and I’m picking up a dang dog.”) Jones admits he’s “not really an animal person,” but the rest of the family “definitely” is, and they finally won out this spring.

Which means Jazmyn and the kids might not miss Dad quite as much as he’ll miss them in the weeks ahead. But that’s OK.

“Just like everybody, you take it day by day, week by week,” Jones said.

And besides, he added, smiling, “It’s time to play football.”

Twitter: @JohnNiyo

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