Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE - Former LSU linebacker Tahj Jones wants to play football again as he continues a speedy recovery from two surgeries for a gunshot wound to his abdomen on April 11.
“Oh yeah, he plans on playing football again,” said Mark Swinney, who with his wife Pam Swinney adopted Jones a decade ago in Sulphur after Jones’ mother died. “There is always a chance. That’s what we’re praying for.”
Doctors at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria did not rule out a return to the football field.
“They want him to take it slow right now,” Swinney said Wednesday night from Jones’ hospital room as Jones was awaiting final orders from doctors before he could leave. Later after 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jones was released from the hospital, Rapides Regional spokesman John Marcase confirmed at 8:30 p.m.
“He is up and walking around,” Swinney said. “He’s trying to go too fast, the doctors said.”
Jones, 24, has always been very fast. On April 9 at LSU’s Pro Day, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound outside linebacker ran the 40-yard dash in front of several NFL coaches and personnel executives at the tailback and wide receiver time of 4.54 seconds.
Two nights later, he was shot in the abdomen allegedly by former LSU offensive tackle Brandon Winey of Lake Charles at the apartment of a female acquaintance of both in nearby Sulphur shortly before midnight. After Winey fled, the female friend took Jones to West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital in Sulphur, according to Sulphur Police.
Jones was then taken by ambulance to the Level 1 Trauma Unit at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria for emergency surgery early Saturday. A second surgery followed on that Sunday.
He was in intensive care for two days and in serious condition for several more. Winey, who played at LSU from 1997-2000, remains in a Sulphur jail on $1 million bond on a charge of attempted second degree murder.
A 2009 signee out of Sulphur High School, Jones was expected to start at outside linebacker for the Tigers in 2012 before he was ruled academically ineligible for all of the season except the bowl game. In the loss to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Jones made four tackles with a sack and a forced fumble. Jones won his starting job back before the 2013 season but missed most of the year with a nagging hamstring injury.
“He wants a chance to play,” Jones’ childhood friend Shane Hanchey said. “He’s so fast. He could really roll down the field on those kickoffs.”
Jones was not expected to be selected in the NFL Draft on May 8-10, but he had hopes of trying out at training camp in July and August and catching on as an undrafted free agent because of his special teams abilities.
“He plans on trying that next year,” Swinney said. “He made it through this. Who knows what he can do if he gets the chance? We thank God that he survived. The kid could’ve been dead. The doctors couldn’t believe he stayed alive.”
At the moment, Jones still has a tube in his side for draining purposes.
“He’s supposed to have a lot of bed rest for at least a week,” Swinney said. “We thank God that he’s all right. I know people at newspapers don’t like to quote people talking about God, but we feel like Tahj was saved by a miracle.”