Adam “Pacman” Jones was for many years the league’s favorite example of what not to do.
But the short-lived Cowboy, once the “NFL poster boy for bad behavior,” hasn’t just turned his own life around. Along the way, he’s also made a difference for a fallen teammate’s family, as detailed Another thoughtful piece Athletics by Zak Keefer.
Jones, now 39, has raised Chris Henry’s two sons as her own for a few years. Jones and Henry had been close friends while playing together at West Virginia; Henry died in 2009 during his fifth season in the league.
Chris Jr. is a straight-A student, and while he won’t even graduate high school until 2026, he’s already received offers to play college ball at some of the nation’s top programs — Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia and USC. like West Virginia. He’s believed to be a lock as a top-10 draft pick whenever he declares.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid track the deep ball like him,” Jones told Keefer. “He’s smarter than me and his father was his age.”
Chris’ younger brother DeMarcus is a budding basketball talent who will start high school this fall.
And the boys’ legal guardian is the man who was once called “nothing but a disaster off the field” by the man who drafted him into the NFL and at one point had been suspended for 22 of a possible 28 games.
Jones is well aware of the irony.
“I’ll be damned if these kids make the same mistakes I did,” he says.
The sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft, Jones sat out most of his rookie training camp in a contract dispute, with the Titans from the jump concerned with non-football incidents while in college. He had a breakout sophomore season, but behind the scenes, Tennessee was already poised to cut all ties thanks to a continued downward spiral of legal troubles.
Jones had been arrested several times since turning pro; his sheet included everything from aggravated vandalism and obstruction of justice to probation violations and assault. The league finally suspended Jones for the 2007 season; it was the first time in nearly half a century that a player was suspended for an offense other than drug abuse.
In the spring of 2008, news broke that Jerry Jones and the Cowboys traded for the cornerback and return specialist even before he had even been reinstated. The deal fell through, and Dallas got Jones for just a fourth-round draft pick.
Having previously brought Terrell Owens and Tank Johnson on board, the Cowboys were no strangers to reclamation projects. The terms of Jones’ trade even included contingencies that would change the Titans’ compensation should he be suspended or arrested again while a Cowboy.
The club threw significant resources into helping him make the most of his second chance in Dallas. Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders promised their personal guidance; even Hall of Famer Jim Brown wanted to offer his support to the troubled Jones. The bad boy’s road to football redemption with America’s Team was a major plotline on this summer’s edition of HBO’s Hard knocks series.
Through the first six games of the 2008 season, Jones posted promising numbers: 25 tackles, six passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries.
But then an altercation at a Dallas hotel resulted in another suspension, this time for six games. Jones would appear in just three more contests as a Cowboy.
Jones suffered a neck injury in his first game back from injury. There were stories of Jones getting into physical altercations with the safety personnel assigned to him by the Cowboys. But even more troubling was the discovery by the Dallas front office that Jones had been involved in a shooting in Las Vegas in 2007 that left a man paralyzed. The Cowboys officially cut Jones early in the 2009 offseason.
Jones returned to the NFL in 2010 with the Bengals. This time it clicked. He was named a first-team All-Pro in 2014, made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and lasted a total of eight seasons in Cincinnati.
He retired from the league in 2019 after one final season with the Broncos.
Jones had kept in touch with Henry’s wife and children over the years. Shortly after hanging up his own cleats, Jones and his wife invited the family to move into their Cincinnati home with them. There was no fanfare. His former coaches and teammates only found out from other people. Jones didn’t even want to Athletics history written.
He now admits he was diagnosed as bipolar in 2015 but refused medication until he retired from football because he didn’t want it to affect his game. One can only imagine how the undiagnosed condition had contributed to his notorious transgressions during his early career.
Today, Jones remains involved in league events as one of the hosts of the I am an athlete podcast and as an analyst for The Pat McAfee Show; it was Jones who broke the story last week that Deion Sanders needed emergency surgery for blood clots in his groin. He is part of a group of former players — including Terrell Owens — who are starting the Beach Football League.
But he also has other business interests, including the gym he started in suburban Cincinnati. Former teammates often bring their sons to week-long boot camps. And he runs a demanding year-round training program for Chris Jr. and DeMarcus, intent on helping them make the most of their first opportunity so they never need a second or third.
It’s a lesson that Pacman Jones can uniquely learn.
“Visit the past,” he tells the children—his own as well as Henry’s—”but don’t stay in the past.”