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Jones ready to step from gridiron into Astros' booth

HOUSTON -- Crawford Jones wasn't supposed to start making a real name for himself until he joined the Astros' broadcast team next year, a job he landed after winning the Astros' "You Make The Call" radio apprentice contest last summer.

As a senior football player at the University of Houston, Jones was a backup quarterback who was pretty much limited to his duties as the holder for placekicks this fall. That was before starting quarterback David Piland went down and Jones was thrust into action.

Jones came off the bench against SMU on Oct. 19, when Piland was injured, and threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns in the most significant playing time of his college career. He made his first career start on Saturday against Marshall and threw for 316 yards and five touchdowns, and rallied Houston back from a huge deficit -- only to lose, 44-41.

"I felt like I got more comfortable and got some of the butterflies out of the way as the game went along," said Jones, who's from Keller, Texas. "It had been five years since I played really meaningful snaps. The stats look nice, but it comes down to wins and losses -- and we weren't able to pull it out."

Coming into this season, Jones' career highlight at Houston was an 18-yard pass against Georgia State last year. Now, he'll start for the Cougars (4-7) when they face Tulane in the final game of the season. Not only will it be the last game for the seniors, but it will be the final game at Houston's Robertson Stadium, which is set to be razed.

"Just as a senior, and knowing Senior Day would be the last game ever at 'The Rob,' I thought that would be special," Jones said. "My dad and granddad grew up down here and both played high school games at 'The Rob,' and three generations have come through it -- and I get to send it off. It's a complete blessing, and I'm thrilled to get the opportunity to do it. Hopefully, we can send 'The Rob' off in style."

Jones, 22, advanced through several rounds of competition to land the Astros' job -- including interviews with Astros players, as well as a three-inning stint during an Astros radio broadcast. He will be a paid member of the broadcast team next season and will conduct pre- and postgame interviews, cover press conferences and serve as a roving reporter during home games.

It's a dream come true for a broadcast journalism major.

"I'm looking forward to it," Jones said. "It's something I've been lucky enough to be on this side of it, and I look forward to getting on the other side of it. Hopefully, it will give me a unique perspective. When I'm interviewed, I try to give as much of a good answer as I can and try to elaborate -- because I know that's one of the worst things as a journalist, when you ask a question and you get a one- or two-word answer. I look forward to the challenge, and it's going to be completely different."

Jones said knowing he has a job waiting for him when he graduates has allowed him to enjoy his senior year and enabled him to focus more on football, especially now that he's a starting quarterback.

"You hear a lot of people talk about graduating and not having anywhere to go and not knowing what they're going to do, and it causes a lot of stress," Jones said. "I can focus on the season and final semester in college knowing I have a job. That takes a lot of the stress off."

But first things first. Jones will suit up one final time and make his first and only career start at home in the Robertson Stadium finale. A football career will end and give way to what Jones can only hope is a long career in broadcasting.

"[Football] is something I've done since I was eight years old, and my parents have been with me every step of the way and they've done a ton for me to get to this position," Jones said. "I'll be nervous before I hit the field and my eyes will well up a little bit. This will be the end of a chapter for me, as far as being a college ... athlete and football player."

Houston Astros