Thomas Q. Jones will forever carry an All-Pro NFL resume with him, even as he now walks from Hollywood audition to audition like a rookie hoping to land a roster spot in a Marvel TV show.
Even with a rushing title, Pro Bowl appearance and earning more than $32 million during his storied 12-year NFL career, the 39-year-old still opts to go without a car in Los Angeles. Using his feet and his work ethic are what drive the former Jets running back toward Hollywood success.
“If ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Jones says. “I’m pretty comfortable with this living situation because it’s motivating me to keep going hard.”
Following his breakout role as bad guy gangster Comanche in Netflix’s smash Marvel hit “Luke Cage.” Jones hopes to carry his acting momentum to the big screen as his MMA thriller "A Violent Man” was featured at the Kew Gardens Film Festival.
“I was honored and humbled to have ‘A Violent Man’ headline the festival,” Jones says.
Jones plays Ty Matthews, a journeyman MMA fighter who gets a chance at the title against unbeatable champion Marco Reign (played by UFC legend Chuck Liddell). At the same time, Ty’s accused of murder after an MMA reporter (Denise Richards) is found dead. It’s Jones’ first starring role.
“I’ve planted a lot of seeds and have been watering them over the past few years,” says Jones, who’s also CEO of show-casting app Castar. “Now some of the plants are starting to poke their heads out of the ground.”
Marvel man: Who is Comanche?
"Comanche is a conflicted character,” Jones says of his Marvel character. “He just got out of prison and is trying to make it on the streets. He’s been friends with Shades [played by Theo Rossi] since they were kids and is trying to follow him, even though Shakes is trying to go straight. Comanche’s just trying to find his place.”
Despite his own massive football frame, Jones looks small when facing Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter who's 6-foot-3 co-star and looks linebacker ready. “I’d say he’s more like [former Giants linebackers] Brandon Short, or even Lavar Arrington,” Jones says. “Tall, long arms, has lots of range."
Jones, just one of only 31 NFL running backs to rush for more than 10,000 career yards, spent three seasons with the Jets, capturing the AFC rushing title in 2008. But with his acting career flourishing, Jones admits there’s become a detachment from the game, although he’ll still tune in to watch his Virginia Cavaliers play on Saturdays or even check out old games on ESPN Classic. “[Football’s] kind of like being in a relationship,” he explains. “You love the person but you know you cant be together.”
Despite the different physical demands between acting and football, both performance arts have similar traits: dedication and preparation. “Those who stay ready don’t have to get ready,” Jones says. "It’s kind of like a guy who didn’t watch game film all week and gets in on Sunday and thinks he’s gonna make plays. It doesn’t work like that.”