Green Bay Packers Star Aaron Jones Reveals How He Honors His Late Father's Memory Every Game

·3 min read
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones

Quinn Harris/Getty Aaron Jones

Green Bay Packers star running back Aaron Jones had a tough 2021, losing his father to the virus that has killed millions around the world.

Jones' father, Alvin Jones Sr., died on April 6, 2021, of complications from COVID-19. Jones Sr. was 56, a father of five including Jones, and a U.S. Army veteran. According to a Fox Sports: NFL package from last December, Jones Sr. spent 28 years in the U.S. Army and retired as a Command Sergeant Major. He aimed to attend every one of Jones' games, offering words of encouragement from the sidelines.

In the time since, the athlete, 27, has had his dad with him on the field during every 2021-2022 season game, wearing Jones Sr.'s ashes around his neck in a football pendant while playing. And now, thanks to grief wellness brand Eterneva, he'll be using the ashes to create a new special piece of jewelry that will also be game-ready.

"I thought it would be a great way to honor my father," Jones tells PEOPLE. "They take hair or ashes, and they turn it into diamonds. To me, that was amazing."

Although his season come to an abrupt and surprising ending on Jan. 22 after the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoff game, Jones is glad that his dad didn't have to miss it.

"A lot of people who really know me, they know that I wear a pendant with my father's ashes," he explains.

That was almost not the case though — during a September game at the Packers' Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, the ashes were lost after falling off Jones' neck. With the help of Packers athletic trainer Bryan Engel and other staffers, the pendant was ultimately recovered.

It was a scary moment for Jones, and he's thankful to the Packers for coming up with a way to make sure that it never happens again.

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"They created a pocket [in my jersey] so it wouldn't fall out," Jones adds. "That's why I think this [Eterneva] diamond, it'll be even closer to me. I can play with it on if I wanted to, things like that, and not have to worry about it falling out or anything like that. So that's one of the things that excited me more about this. I think if more people knew about it, they would choose to do the same."

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Jones is thankful he's found a way to keep his father close by in more ways than one ("It doesn't always have to be seen, but it's right there close to your hear," he says), and Adelle Archer, co-founder and CEO of Eterenva, feels the same.

"Getting the opportunity to work alongside Aaron and his family to celebrate the impact Alvin Sr. had on those around him is an absolute honor," Archer tells PEOPLE. "Being able to help people find healing, meaning, and even brightness after the loss of a loved one is one of the most remarkable aspects of the Eterneva process."

As Jones prepares for the off-season, he's reflecting on his career so far and his 2021 nomination for Walter Payton Man of the Year, an honor he received in celebration of his work with his twin brother through their A&A All the Way Foundation, which focuses on helping American youth through charitable initiatives.

"I think he'd be ecstatic," he says of his father. "To me, that's like the MVP award for the NFL off-the-field. My dad and I had talked about that before we went to the 2019 NFL Honors and we got to see that award presented. It's something we have talked about, so just to be even nominated for [the Walter Payton] was an honor."