Pair of Blue Devils earn Bert Jones scholarships

Tift County defensive coordinator Mike West, J.D. Bengston, Wayne Jones and Chrishon Stephens get together in front of the high school fieldhouse earlier this week. Jones presented Stephens and Bengston scholarships from the Bert Jones Scholarship Initiative.

TIFTON — Chrishon Stephens and J.D. Bengston received two of the highest honors a Tift County football player can get Monday. The pair of seniors were presented with scholarships from the Bert Jones Scholarship Initiative Foundation Monday at the fieldhouse.

The scholarships were presented by Wayne Jones, Bert’s father, who started the program following Bert’s death in an automobile accident in 1992. Bert Jones, a star receiver, was at that time a rising senior with the Blue Devils.

“I’ve been doing this for 28 years,” said Wayne Jones to the players. The scholarships began with a memorial fund, which is now a foundation.

Tift County defensive coordinator Mike West was also on hand to present the scholarships. He regretted the team was not able to hold a banquet because of coronavirus restrictions Jones credited the coaching staff over the years for picking top-notch young men to receive the honor. One requirement is that the player must have suited up four years for the Blue Devils.

Jones said he and West encouraged Bengston and Stephens to return to Tift County as they could to continue to support the program.

Following the presentation, Jones, West, Stephens and Bengston reminisced about their high school careers. Bengston and Jones realized they had something in common: jumping from a baseball game immediately to a track meet. Stephens and Jones compared their experiences running the hurdles.

Stephens lettered in three sports at Tift County, football, basketball and track. Bengston might hold the record for sports participated in; from his freshman through his senior year, he gave seven of them a try. Baseball, basketball, cross country, football, swimming and track filled his first three years before went out for golf his senior season.

As football players, Stephens and Bengston received many honors.

Stephens, a running back, was second team All-Region in 2020 while scoring four touchdowns for Tift. Bengston was named Utility Player of the Year for his work at linebacker, punter and occasional punt returner. Stephens was honorable mention All-Region during his junior season, with Bengston earning first team honors.

Bengston was also the recipient in 2020 of another gesture done annually by Tift County in Bert Jones’ honor. He wore the No. 4 jersey — Bert’s number — which has been awarded to a senior every year since 2016. The number had previously been retired by former, late head coach Gene Brodie in 1992.

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