HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Dezi Jones has thrilled Hannibal basketball fans the last two seasons with his athleticism, ball handling and scoring the last two years.
He's starting to create that same buzz on the football field this fall after just one game for the Pirates football team.
Jones, a 5-foot-10 senior, started at wide receiver, cornerback and kicker in Hannibal's 35-34 season-opening defeat to Jefferson City Helias, and he was an immediate factor.
It was the first time Jones had played an organized football game since the eighth grade, since he decided to focus solely on basketball his first three years of high school. He averaged 28.2 points per game for the Pirates last season.
"I went to some of the workouts (this summer) to get some work in," Jones said. "Nearly everybody on the team talked to me about it. They all wanted me to play, so I figured it was time to play."
His abilities are warmly welcomed.
"You get another athlete on the field," St. Clair said. "If someone is an athlete, and they're willing to work hard, there's a spot for him in football. He's a special athlete with quick feet and good hands."
Jones earned a starting spot by Week 1 and produced immediately.
His first catch went for 19 yards to the Helias 21-yard line on the final play of the first quarter. Hannibal scored four plays later to tie the game.
On the Pirates' next series, he hauled in a 43-yard catch-and-run that got Hannibal to the 21-yard line again, and Hannibal scored again five plays later.
Jones scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter when JaQuez McGruder hit him on a halfback pass for an 80-yard touchdown.
Jones finished with 142 yards and a touchdown on three catches. He also made a pair of extra-point attempts. Jones says his kicking abilities come from playing soccer when he was younger.
"A lot of people were worried about his physicality, but he made a lot of big plays," Hannibal quarterback Gabe Worthington said. "If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have as many points as we did."
Jones admitted he was nervous before his first game, but once he made his first reception, he felt like he was in the flow of the game.
"I just got my rhythm back," he said.
His first touchdown helped fuel a near rally for the Pirates.
"That got us hyped," Jones said. "That got us back in the game."
Jones admits his defensive skills need work. Helias receivers scored twice on passes thrown Jones' way in the season opener, but Jones will use his competitiveness to become a better cornerback.
He was just happy to be back on a football field.
"It was a great feeling," Jones said. "I hadn't played in a long time, and I kind of missed it."