Former Texas Tech defensive tackle Richard Jones is on the rise in the Christian hip-hop world under the alias “Big Rich,” and when he’s not on tour, he can be found helping others reach their fitness goals as a personal trainer at Bodyworks on 34th Street.
But, he hasn’t always been about encouraging and uplifting those around him.
“The general message of my music is just pointing everything back to Jesus,” Jones said. “My album is called ‘The Transformation’ and I call it that because throughout the whole album you see the things I’ve been through and you see how God has transformed me. I’m a new creation.”
On the weekend of Sept. 23, 2005, the La Marque senior defensive tackle officially visited Texas Tech University. In hindsight, it was a trip that would change his life forever.
“When I came in from Houston, I thought ‘What the heck is this? Ain’t nothing but dirt,’” Jones said. “The Marsha Sharp (Freeway) and none of that was there. There was only one side of the press box. I thought ‘Man, what are we going to do here?’”
The Red Raiders went on to beat Indiana State 63-7 the next day and Jones switched his commitment from Missouri to Texas Tech and cancelled visits to LSU, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State.
“I fell in love with the campus,” Jones said. “At the football game, when I walked out, people were holding up signs like ‘Richard Jones, in the Jones, welcome home.’ I was 18 years old and it just blew my mind. I hadn’t ever seen anything like that.”
The then-6-foot, 265-pounder saw playing time in 10 games as a true freshman, registering six tackles and one tackle for loss, while showing flashes of his ability to be a force on the defensive front. Playing his first year out of high school, Jones was ahead of the majority of the 2006 recruiting class on the field. But, off the field, the cultural and geographical differences between West Texas and his hometown, an inner-city community outside of Houston, began to catch up with him.
“When I got here my freshman year, I almost left,” Jones said. “It got boring and I wasn’t feeling it. Little did I know, it was all part of God’s plan and now I know why. It’s where I found Him at.”
“My sophomore year of college I had attitude problems. I just didn’t care. My life was going down the drain. I had just lost my starting spot and everything was going downhill...One night I was rap battling against this guy and I started beating him, then he pushed me and I pushed him back and I didn’t know his friends were there and I ended up getting jumped.”
A few other bad decisions, fights, and other types of incidents almost prevented Jones from seeing his best years in the Scarlet and Black.
“I got pulled over by three cop cars after a fight and they surrounded me and I tried to hide my gun so they wouldn’t see it, but I couldn’t,” Jones said. “My gun was out in the open. The cops put me in the back of the cop car and ask if I had weapons, I said no. They called in a search warrant and gave them an okay to search my car. “
“That was when I remembered what my Bible study pastors told me, to pray and ask for God’s help. I did and I prayed He would hide my gun for me so they wouldn’t see it. I told Him if He did that, I would change my life for Him. After that prayer, I saw the cops search the front and back seat and trunk and they came back and said I was free to go… The first thing I searched for when I got to my car was my gun and it was under the seat.”
It was then that two of his veteran teammates extended him a hand to help him follow through with what He had promised God.
“Keyunta (Dawson) and Manny (Ramirez) invited me to Bible study and I went just for the free food, but I didn’t know that’s when God started working on my heart,” Jones said.
“Once I started truly seeking Him, it was like everything started to get better. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, but He really started building me and shaping me. I ended up finding my wife, I got my starting spot back. One of the guys at the Bible study would always tell me, ‘be patient, your time is going to come. Be ready, when God is ready for that to happen, then it’s going to happen.’”
“Rajon (Henley) ended up getting hurt and I ended up playing. Then the next year they moved Rajon to end I ended up continuing to start my junior and senior year.”
Jones finished his junior year with 26 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and half a sack and added 41 tackles, 2 ½ sacks, and a fumble recovery as a senior.
“I didn’t get a shot at the NFL,” Jones said. “I wasn’t invited to a minicamp, a free agent camp, or anything. My agent sent my tape to the BC Lions (of the Canadian Football League) and the general manager was real interested in me and offered me a contract.”
In 2010, Jones played in five games with the Lions as part of the rotation at defensive tackle and recovered a fumble for a 50-yard touchdown against Calgary mid-season.
“I ended up tearing my hamstring before I went to training camp, and the good Lord provided just enough strength for me to impress the coaches the first two weeks of practice,” Jones said. “After the first two pre-season games I finally came out and told them I was hurt. The word says ‘the king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand’ and they ended up keeping me on the practice squad because they liked me that much.”
Jones was a projected starter at defensive end for the Lions in 2011 but the defensive coordinator had a last minute change of plans with personnel and cut him.
“The next six months were the hardest six months of my life,” Jones said. “I had never been cut before. I didn’t have my degree yet… By me getting cut, it showed me that I idolized football, because God is a jealous God and that’s the reason I got cut is because He is more important than football.”
It was then he began to shift his focus from football to his music career and signed with the J-Fam music label out of Houston. In June 2012, he released his first album “The Transformation,” but he wasn’t ready to hang up the pads for good.
“I actually went back to the BC Lions tryout in 2012,” Jones said. “I weighed in at 280 and ran a 4.7 and they looked at me surprised. The scouting coordinator said they were going to bring me back, but they actually picked Rajon over me so I was back at square one.”
“I ended up enrolling in school. I was going to finish the semester out, then my agent called and said Derrick Brooks saw my highlight tape and wanted me to come play with the Tampa Bay Storm. I prayed about it and asked the Lord if He wanted me to go, then that night I had a dream about being in Tampa, so I went.
In Tampa, Jones’ music started to really take off and he developed connections that would help him advance in the industry. He then finished his degree at Tech in August 2012.
At Bodyworks, Jones helped one of his clients lose 50 pounds in less than three months, but he’s also made positive impacts in other ways.
“One of my first clients, I met through the very first boot camps I did in October and I ended up giving her a Bible,” Jones said. “…She just Facebooked me last week that she was going through some things and she found the Bible that I gave her. She had never opened it up and it went untouched, but she said she remembered me and the things I told her and she had been reading it and told me ‘Thank you, you may have just saved my life’”
“I’ve seen my coworkers grow in their faith. It’s all about making disciples man, wherever you go... I live by Psalms 37:23: ‘The Lord directs the steps of the godly, He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.’ That’s what I live by.”
Big Rich has toured in New England, Boston, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida. Two of his fan favorites, “Bring ’em back,” and “Jesus I need you” can be found on YouTube.