Shhh! Daniel is in a meeting!
The scene is vivid enough to be pulled straight from a sitcom: Four 20-something siblings all temporarily living together again in the Jones family home in Charlotte, N.C., at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine. Rebecca, Bates and Ruthie all have experience with the demands of a high-level athlete, but it’s still funny to them when food is eaten on the go because Daniel — the Giants quarterback — needs space for his laptop and spread-out papers.
“Some days when maybe the three of us just wanted to go goof around, Daniel took control of the family dining room,” Ruthie Jones, the youngest sibling, said. “Everyone has to be quiet in the house because Daniel is taking notes. It’s hilarious because that’s who he is — committed. It doesn’t surprise me, but it impresses me. At the highest level, that’s what it takes. It was pretty cool for me to see that first-hand.”
Eighteen months later, Daniel Jones’ third NFL season will begin Sunday, when the Giants face the Broncos, but another important fall season in the family already is well underway. Ruthie is 6-0 with a 0.56 goals-against-average as goalie for the No. 5-ranked Duke women’s soccer team. Another season will begin Nov. 9, when Bates joins the front-court for the Duke men’s basketball team.
But a quarterback and a goalkeeper? Two field generals. That’s no accident.
“I don’t know a whole lot about playing goalie,” Daniel told The Post, “but there are certainly similarities. Being the goalie or the quarterback is different than being a defenseman or a midfielder. We talk about communicating with the people you rely on, whether it’s the defense in front of her or my offensive linemen. A lot of our conversations revolve around working with teammates.”
Apologies to head coaches Joe Judge and Mike Krzyzewski, but a running joke among family friends is Ruthie is the best athlete of the four.
“A lot of people would agree with that,” Daniel quipped. “She’s a tremendous athlete — and probably the best student also.”
Daniel has inherited a lot of labels in the last three years: Eli Manning’s successor. First-round draft pick. Co-captain. Multi-millionaire. But he still takes seriously the role of older brother — and example-setter — for Ruthie and Bates. Rebecca, the eldest of the four, was a four-year letterwinner in field hockey (2013-16) at Davidson.
“He’s calling the plays. He’s making plays. He’s the leader on the field,” Ruthie said. “I think it translates. In soccer, we call it commanding the box. As the last line of defense, I need to be locked in on everyone’s job. Accountability rests on me.”
In New York, it rests on Daniel.
Two of a kind
Ask anyone around the Giants about the starting quarterback and three descriptions follow: Hard-working, smart and unflappable. These traits were sharpened over decades, and the internal belief is those hard-to-find intangibles are bound to lead to on-field improvement.
Fans want Daniel to be more emotional. The media wish he were more revealing. Teammates love him just the way he is.
“For some people, being a leader is yelling and screaming, getting hyped up and being that sort of energy,” Ruthie said. “In some ways, Daniel and I are less obvious to the rest of the world. What I see from Daniel is I don’t need to become this whole different person in order to lead my team. People will see that and trust me, and that makes the connections we both have on the field within our teams that much more meaningful.”
Way back when, they were on the same team. Two-on-two basketball games at home always pitted Ruthie and Daniel against Rebecca and Bates. Legend has it Ruthie and Daniel won an overwhelming majority back when Rebecca fouled too much and the brothers “butted heads a lot.”
“It was a fun way to grow up, always doing something together,” Daniel said. “We all feed off each other’s successes.”
Daniel is known to stream a Duke women’s soccer game — or seek out the highlights package. A congratulatory or pick-me-up text message usually lands soon after.
Duke football No. 17 jerseys with “Jones” across the back still are popular on the Durham, N.C., campus. There might be more photos of Daniel hanging in the athletic training facility than at home. Even professors like to ask for an update on Daniel once they make the sibling connection.
“It’s kind of easy for me to go under the radar because our last name is Jones,” Ruthie said. “But it’s not lost on me the value of the legacy he left at Duke.”
Inevitably, there are times when an NFL sports talk show comes on a campus television. Maybe someone is criticizing the Giants or their quarterback.
“It’s not something I would choose to watch, but the criticism comes with the praise,” said Ruthie, who has professional soccer prospects if she wants to pursue them. “It’s important for me to see that. It doesn’t affect me and my family as much as it did in the beginning. People ask if I ever get used to seeing Daniel play on TV. I don’t think so. It’s fun to watch most of the time, when they are saying good things.”
Blue Devils & Big Blue
When the pandemic hit, it stirred echoes of years during which Daniel and Bates used to drag their middle-school-aged sister out of bed because they were her only ride to school and wanted to hit the weight room before classes. Closed parks, gyms, team facilities and college campuses around the country caused athletes who rely on a push from coaches to fall behind the curve.
Self-starters creatively pushed forward.
“We have a little weight room set up with a rack in the garage,” Ruthie said. “I joined some lifts with my brothers — I wasn’t quite pulling the same weight — but it was really valuable because Daniel wasn’t going to slow down just because he was home. He was like, ‘I’m doing sprints up the big hill down the street in 10 seconds.’ Alright, I’ll go over later this afternoon and see if I can do that.
“More than anything, it is the mentality. Maybe you are not feeling it today, but Daniel got up and worked out this morning, so I have no excuse.”
At the time, in March and April of 2020, Ruthie had her eye on winning a starting job as a sophomore. Mission accomplished, as she led Duke to the NCAA quarterfinals and had a scoreless streak of nearly 430 straight minutes — sixth-longest in program history — during the season. Recording four straight shutouts required tougher saves than an NFL quarterback or an ACC power forward could offer her in the yard.
“When I needed someone they always jumped in,” Ruthie said of her brothers. “They probably need to brush up on their soccer skills.”
That’s OK. If the Giants can match Duke’s success, there won’t be any way to quiet the noise around Daniel.
“Daniel definitely tells me and we all tell each other: Do you. Everything else will come,” Ruthie said. “We’ve all done our thing for long enough. We know we are good enough. It’s not like the game is changing. It’s carried us this far.”