VACHERIE, La. (AP) — Long before he became a top-ranked college football recruit, St. James High School star junior defensive end Sai’vion Jones had to overcome a major health scare that threatened his life as an infant.
Jones said he was born with a rare breathing disorder that caused him to have a tracheotomy tube placed into his neck when he was 3-months-old. He also had to sleep with a heart monitor and oxygen machine on at night.
Sennecca Jones, Sai’vion’s mother, said she knew something was wrong a few weeks after her son was born.
“It was like he struggled to breathe as a newborn,” Sennecca said. “They didn’t catch it in the hospital at first. Maybe after a weeks when they first found it.”
But that was only the beginning of a terrifying health scare for Sai’vion and his family.
Sennecca said her son pulled the tracheotomy tube out of his neck in the hospital, which nearly killed him.
Sai’vion said he “coded” or went through the “code blue” medical emergency procedure in the hospital, meaning he was nearly dead before medical personnel resuscitated him and brought him back to life. He was flown to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans where he eventually recovered after several months.
Now at age 16, Sai’vion is completely healthy. He can breathe on his own without the help of a tube. The only thing left behind is a small scar on the bottom of his neck where the tube was inserted.
Sennecca said the ordeal was frightening, but thanks to God and the support of her family and friends, they were able to get through it.
“It’s his testimony. He went through a lot,” Sennecca said. “Thankfully he was able to get past it when he was young. There’s no more complications now. He’s a normal kid now. He still have his mark on his neck as a daily reminder. A lot of people don’t know that he went through it.”
After fighting for his life as an infant, Sai’vion said he has used it as motivation.
“It really inspired me because I could’ve been gone,” Sai’vion said, “but I know now I’m a blessed person and I realize that.”
As he prepares for his senior season at St. James, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end has emerged into one of the state’s top college football recruits for the Class of 2021.
As a four-star prospect according to 247sports.com and a three-star on Rivals.com, Sai’vion has over 20 offers from major college football programs, including LSU, Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Houston, Kansas, Michigan State, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Nicholls State, South Alabama, UAB, Virginia and Arkansas.
He released his top six college offers on April 27 and it consisted of LSU, Texas A&M, Baylor, Florida State, Mississippi State and Florida.
Sai’vion said his recruiting process is completely open. He doesn’t have a favorite college at the moment, but he plans to take his time through the recruiting process before making a commitment.
When he started high school, Sai’vion said he expected to have about five or so offers, but that number has exploded.
“It feels great because not a lot of people get this opportunity,” Sai’vion said. “It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Sai’vion said college coaches like his size and speed for a defensive end.
“I think the reason is because the way I play and the things I do on the field and off the field too,” he said. “What kind of makes me a great defensive end is probably my speed. To say I’m big, I’m a pretty fast person.”
Sai’vion said he isn’t satisfied yet from his large amount of college offers. If anything, he said it has inspired him to continue working.
“Knowing that I’m one of the best in the state makes me want to work even harder,” Sai’vion said. “I want to be the best in the state and in the nation. Not just one of the best.”
Sennecca said her son has always had a quiet and humble attitude when it comes to his accomplishments. There are times when Sai’vion gets college offers and don’t even tell her, forcing her to find out from other people or on social media.
“He’s humble all the way around. He doesn’t express excitement,” Sennecca said. “I know he’s excited. A lot of people say he doesn’t talk much. He is like that at home. He doesn’t say much. I try to get him out of that, but he’s a humble kid. He doesn’t brag about it.”
Sai’vion has jumped on the radar of many college football teams after his sophomore season as a starter for St. James.
As a junior, he finished with 102 tackles, 13 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss, 17 quarterback hurries, four batted balls and two forced fumbles. He helped lead St. James to its first Class 3A state championship since 1979, and he was recognized as the Defensive MVP on the LSWA Class 3A All State team, The Courier/Daily Comet’s Best of Bayou Preps All-Star football team and the District 9-3A team.
Sai’vion said he still gets excited when he thinks about winning his first championship last season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The Wildcats picked up 51-14 win over Jennings in the Class 3A finals.
“It was a lot of fun, especially since I did it with my brothers,” Sai’vion said. “We’re expecting the same exact thing from our defense this year. We’re getting ready to go to the state championship again.”
Sennecca Jones said basketball was her son’s favorite sport until he started getting attention for his football dominance. Sai’vion earned second-team District 9-3A basketball honors this season.
“I’m so proud of him. He said he was going to accomplish all of the things he had done so far,” Sennecca said. “He always played football, but basketball was always his thing. In his sophomore year, he just blew up. He just started getting all of these offers. He really stepped up his game in his junior year. It surprises me. I didn’t expect it but I’m so proud of him.”
Sav’ion said his dream is to play professional football in the NFL one day. It would be a way for him to give back to his family, especially his mother, who raised him and his two younger siblings as a single parent.
Sai’vion said his mother is his biggest influence, especially since she keeps him grounded and motivated.
“It inspires me a lot because not a lot of people get support from their mothers like that,” Sai’vion said. “I want to thank my family and all of the people who have supported me.”
Sennecca said her son has all the traits to make it to the NFL one day, only if he stays focused on all of his goals.
“He’s not only athletic, but he’s smart, he’s humble and he makes good grades,” Sennecca said. “He’s a leader not a follower. He’s good all around. He’s dedicated to football. He doesn’t just want to show up on game day on Friday. He wants to be the one to lead during the week to prepare for Friday. If he continues being the kid that he is, he will definitely will be up there (in the NFL draft) in the next four or five years.”
After watching him grow from a small baby fighting for his life into one of the state’s best prep football players, Senneca said the entire family and St. James community are excited about Sai’vion’s future.
“Everybody loves him,” she said. “He’s got a lot of support. Everybody is excited for him. A lot of people know how far he’s come. He definitely deserves it all.”