By Rick White
Ronnie Jones believed in the power of athletics to build character and instill life-long lessons.

That’s how one kid wore cowboy boots during football practice.

And nobody was a bigger fan of the Muleshoe Mules.

“He would always talk about how nobody is better than the Muleshoe kids, nobody works harder than the Muleshoe kids and nobody had dreams bigger than the Muleshoe kids,” football coach David Wood said.

Muleshoe schools plan to honor Jones, a longtime coach, teacher, administrator and broadcaster, with a plaque on the press box at Benny Douglass Stadium.

He died in January at age 72.

Jones never believed a call that went against the Mules was correct or that a Muleshoe player or coach did anything wrong, “especially as he got older,” said Gilrobert Rennels, a longtime friend.

“He loved everything Muleshoe Mules,” said Rennels, who spent countless Friday nights traveling the Texas Panhandle with Jones to cover Mules football games.

Sergio Leal, owner of Leal’s Tortilla factory in Muleshoe, played for Jones in junior high.

“He was hard-nosed, tough,” Leal said. “He cared about the kiddos and he cared about doing things right that would mold our character.”

Leal said Jones made one of his junior teammates practice football in cowboys boots after the player showed up without his cleats.

“He spoke into our lives and influenced so many young men and young women, too,” Leal said. “He had so much pride for our town, for being a Mule and for being tough.”

Jones announced Mules football games on Channel 6 TV in Muleshoe with his uncle and best friend Bob Graves since 1984.

Jones and Graves did their best to keep track of the plays on the field, which included keeping statistics. For the listener, sometimes that was like dropping in on a conversation between two slightly cranky old friends.

“How many yards is that Ronnie?”

“Let me see, that’s seven, 17, 27 yards. That’s 32 yards, Bob. If the Mules can score right here that would be big.”

Jones was heard to say he never met a referee he could stand. That made him a bit penalty flagaphobic.

Every time he saw a hanky on the ground he was convinced it was against the Mules.

“Here we go again,” his voice raising two decibels and one octave. “Every time we get a big gain we get a penalty. … Oh, it’s on them.”

The air would go dead.

“They were two colorful characters,” said Wood, who watches the Channel 6 broadcasts during the offseason to see the game from a different perspective.

“They just made the games fun,” Wood said.

One of Jones’ most famous football calls is when an opposing running back looks to have a little running room:

“He’s might go Bob, he might go,” Jones would say.

Most of the time, the runner was tackled for a short gain.

Stacy Conner, minister of First Baptist Church in Muleshoe who delivered Jones’ eulogy, said on any Friday night you can hear Muleshoe fans in the stands repeating Jones’ signature call when a runner sees daylight.

“He may go, Bob. He may go.”

Graves said his best friend’s support for the Mules never wavered, even in the lean years — and there were plenty of lean years.

“He would not tolerate anybody criticizing his Mules.”

That’s what made the Mules’ state title run in 2008 so magical.

Here is Jones’ call wrapping up the Mules’ 46-28 win over Kirbyville in the Class 2A title game.

“This is just unreal. You were talking about Mule Mania and how tough the Mules were. I think you might call them the Amazing Mules, like the Amazing Mets of years ago. They just refused to lose.

“Finally, after all these years, I get to say the Muleshoe Mules are state champions.

“Boy, I guarantee they deserve it and so do the coaches.”

R.I.P. Ronnie Jones.

Rick White is managing editor for the Clovis News Journal. Contact him at: