BELTON — A demonstrative display such as forcefully kicking down a door doesn’t fit the personality of Jonah Jimenez, a seemingly down-to-earth, respectful and goal-oriented teenager. But that’s what the Belton senior did — figuratively speaking.
Turns out it was quite effective and convincing, too.
“He came out in spring ball and it was like a different guy out there. He had always competed, but he shined at every practice, in every rep. It was like, ‘Whoa,’” Tigers head coach Sam Skidmore said. “He surprised a lot of people. And that all goes back to work ethic.”
The work ethic phrase tends to attach itself to Jimenez, who, after biding his time at the junior varsity level, is expected to be one of Belton’s two starting cornerbacks when the Tigers take the field Friday night at Austin Westlake to kick off the season.
He uses it to explain the positive influence his parents, Raymon and Amy, have had on him. And Skidmore mentioned it — multiple times in the same breath, on occasion — while hailing the 5-foot-10, 150-pound defender’s diligence and commitment on the field and off of it.
“The thing that immediately stands out about him is his tireless work ethic, whether it’s out here or in the classroom. He’s one of the best student-athletes we have,” Skidmore said. “He’s going to handle his business and get it done with class and get it done the right way. You never have to worry about him not handling anything he’s responsible for.
“You can tell he was raised to exceed in everything he does because that’s what he tries to do.”
Jimenez, a straight-A student whose favorite subject is math, is the youngest of Raymon — a 25-year Army veteran who now is retired — and Amy’s three children. During Jimenez’s lifetime, the family lived in El Paso and moved to New Jersey before settling in Belton just prior to his first-grade year.
“They are very inspirational to me. I look up to them. They support me in everything I do,” Jimenez said of his dad, a wrestler in his younger days, and mom, a cross country runner in college. “My parents instilled in us, you know, working hard, giving glory to God and just doing everything with all your might.”
His sister, Hannah, the eldest, attended Belton and just graduated from Texas A&M. His brother, Jacob, is headed to Harvard after graduating last May as the high school’s valedictorian.
They both ran cross country in high school, though that never became Jimenez’s thing. “Oh, not a big runner,” he said with a laugh. “They run in the mornings. I don’t join.”
Football, however, stuck out among all the sports he tried in middle school because of its physical nature and the parallels it draws to the real world.
“It’s all about teamwork and being able to work with people,” he said. “You have to depend on people and be dependable, and I think that translates well to school and the workplace.”
Last season, Jimenez was asked to lend his services on JV while a pair of two-year starters in Devyn Raper and Tre Berry finished out their reign at corner.
Skidmore said a varsity call-up would’ve been counter-productive in Jimenez’s case because his playing time likely would’ve been limited. Being on the field benefitted Jimenez much more than pacing the sideline on Friday nights. So, he did his job at the lower level. No questions asked.
“I understood that there were guys in front of me that had been there before and I respected that. So I just worked as hard as I could in the place they put me,” Jimenez said. “It’s kind of hard to take it serious sometimes when it sometimes feels like there isn’t much at stake, but it was just important to get prepared.”
That perspective paid dividends when offseason training began. And when spring practice rolled around in May, Jimenez was ready.
“I just knew that it was my time to step up and that there were spots to fill, and I had worked hard and knew the plays and I just gave it all I had,” he said.
Smack. So long door.
Jimenez had arrived.
“Football-wise, his work ethic is unparalleled. I mean he is a grinder,” Skidmore said. “No matter who he goes against, he’s going to compete. You know we always talk about being 1-0, and that’s what he lives by — 1-0 in everything he does.”
Jimenez will need to sustain that energy level for the next three months while playing for what the Tigers envision being a revamped defense guided by new coordinator Ty Pattrick.
“I think we have a lot of potential. It’s pretty much a fresh defense so we’ll see what we’re made of when the season starts,” Jimenez said.
By all accounts, Pattrick is molding an aggressive unit that will be expected to fly to the football every play. The idea has Jimenez and his teammates anxious to perform, even though the system has taken some getting used to.
Defensive back Ivan Lemus provided R.T.P. as the term to sum up what to expect this season. “Run to punish. That’s what coach tells us,” he said.
“The one thing I can tell you is he looks for speed. He wants players that are going to get (to the ball). He’s enforced that pretty hard,” linebacker Grant Milligan said of Pattrick’s philosophy. “Spring ball and offseason was a lot of extra running and a lot of up-downs because we wouldn’t finish through the first couple weeks. But we kind of figured it out. If we don’t play by his rules, it’s not going to be a fun season.”
Jimenez has every intention of making the season memorable, going about that by preparing much like he did while trying to earn his way into the varsity starting 11.
That panned out, so odds are in his favor.
“It’s all about getting your mind right and getting the plays down, make sure you know everything, being fast and hitting hard,” he said.