TIFTON — Will Clark recently signed to play basketball at Erskine College. A few days later, he received a bit more help for his journey to Due West, S.C.

Clark received a boost from the Bert Jones Scholarship and Mission Foundation. Its founder, Wayne Jones — father of Bert — presented the scholarship to Clark May 15 at Tift County High.

Bert Jones, a star receiver for the TCHS Blue Devils in the early 1990s, lost his life in a car accident prior to his senior year in 1992.

“We started off with a memorial fund,” said Jones, who currently coaches at Berrien High. Scholarships were at first at Berrien and Tift County high schools, alma maters for Wayne and Bert Jones, but have since expanded. “We turned it it into the Bert Jones Scholarship and Mission Foundation.” Scholarships are not longer just for football, but have been given to softball, track and basketball players.

“So, it’s really student-athletes,” Jones said. “It’s every sport.”

Now, it’s not limited to the memory of Bert Jones. In December 2022, Wayne Jones lost two friends from the coaching world, Mike Leach and Ed Pilcher. Jones began coaching at Valdosta State when Leach and Hal Mumme were with the Blazers.

Two years after Bert’s death, Wayne Jones enrolled at Valdosta State in 1994. With the help of VSU quarterback (and classmate) Chris Hatcher, Jones spoke with Mumme, who found a role on the staff as tight ends coach. There, he began working with Bill Clark, Will’s father.

Pilcher was a legend in high school coaching, with a career spanning multiple state championships and stops at Early County, Thomas County Central, Bainbridge and Berrien.

More scholarships have been set up in memory of coaches Jones has known. “We’re going to branch out,” he said. “Any student-athlete in need, we’re going to try to help them.”

Recipients are encouraged to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and develop their leadership skills and character to be successful beyond college.

Clark excelled in basketball, track and cross country at Tift County High. He and teammate Davis Byrnes will be making the trek to Erskine together.

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