Shawn Jones kept his eyes on the teed football in front of him as the crowd of 84,391 fans at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium brimmed with potential excitement.
Jones, a master sergeant in the United States Army with 20 years of service, was participating in the Chick-fil-A “Kickin’ for Chicken” field goal contest, which occurred at the end of the first quarter during Oklahoma’s 52-31 win over TCU last Saturday. If he nailed the 15-yard attempt, he’d win a year’s worth of meals from the fast food restaurant.
Jones wasn’t very nervous leading up to the contest. He practiced in a field behind his church in Moore, where he measured out the length of a goal post and planted two fishing poles in the ground to simulate the real thing. Once he got the hang of it, he visited Westmoore High School in south Oklahoma City and, after being granted permission, practiced kicks there. His attempts were on-and-off, but not bad for a near 40-year-old, he thinks.
When the moment arrived, he donned cleats for an added boost. OU football emcee Malcolm Tubbs even noted Jones’ foot wear to fans after he was escorted onto Owen Field, calling him “the first contestant to be prepared” for the kick. With his introduction over, Jones entered his kicking stance, burst forward and struck the ball through the uprights to take home the contest’s grand prize. He’s not keeping his winnings for himself, though.
A week before the game, he reached out to Charlie Blount, the lead pastor at First Moore Baptist Church where Jones spent his first few practice sessions. He promised Blount that if his kick was successful, he’d donate the meals to those in need.
“I told my wife that I thought it was the right thing to do,” Jones told The Daily. “There’s a lot of people out there who are a lot worse off than we are. … So, I just gave (Blount) all of the gift cards (on Sunday) to give to families that are in need.”
Jones’ didn’t even know the kick went through until he heard the crowd roar with excitement. His eyes were still on the tee. Overcome with joy, he tried to take off his OU ROTC hoodie to reveal a “winner winner, chicken dinner” T-shirt he was wearing underneath, but he couldn’t take it off in time.
A native of Beckley, West Virginia, Jones and his wife, Jennifer, moved to Oklahoma City when he was offered a job as the Senior Military Instructor at OU’s ROTC program. The couple remain fans of West Virginia University athletics, but since becoming acquainted with the Sooners, they’ve come to love both programs.
Jennifer nominated Jones for the contest, which was open to military members, after seeing an advertisement for it on Facebook. Jones earned 38 medals during his years of service, including a Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals and four Army Commendation Medals.
It wasn’t the first time she’s entered his name in such a drawing, but it was the first time they’ve received a call back.
“If there’s any contest for heroes or veterans, I always nominate my husband,” Jennifer told The Daily. “He’s had three deployments (overseas). He’s made so many sacrifices and he’s never asked for recognition or anything like that. He’s so selfless.”
Jennifer was even more proud of Shawn after learning of his intention to give up his winnings. When he told her of his plan after he’d been selected, Jennifer jokingly asked how he could “give the Lord’s chicken away” before agreeing that it was the right thing to do. It just meant the pair wouldn’t receive a year’s worth of chicken nuggets or spicy chicken sandwiches like she originally hoped.
Jones’ charitable act also wasn’t surprising to his wife. After all, she’s always known him to put others before himself. In fact, Jones believes one of the biggest lessons he learned while serving was the importance of relationships. He aims to help those he crosses paths with in life however he can, he said.
His donation wasn’t done so he could so he could receive praise, but rather because it simply made someone else’s life easier.
“The only thing is, the (advertisement) was called ‘Nominate Your Hero,’” Jennifer said. “I know I’m biased, but I feel like he’s even more of a hero now.”