LAUREL - Meridian football coach Bob Ames didn't know it at the time, but he was getting a preview of his tailback of the future every time he went to get his hair cut or took one of his three sons to have their hair cut.
"I didn't know Ms. Patty was his mom," Ames said of senior Letrez Jones. "It wasn't until he told me that his mom used to cut my hair that I figured it out, and I was like, 'Your mom is Ms. Patty?' I didn't know all the pictures on the wall back there were of him."
This season, both Ames and Jones are beginning to learn just how big an impact he can have on the Trojans.
After rushing for a career-high 231 yards and scoring three touchdowns last week in Meridian's 32-0 victory at Friday Harbor, Jones stands sixth in the Northwest Conference with 559 rushing yards and second with 10 rushing touchdowns, even though Meridian has played only four games with the Week 3 forfeit victory over Tri-Cities Prep. He's also accumulated 12 catches for 185 yards and another TD.
He'll look to add to those totals on Friday, Oct. 11, when the Trojans host Nooksack Valley in a NWC 1A game, as Meridian attempts to pick up its fourth straight win after opening the season with losses to Class 2A powers Burlington-Edison and Lakewood.
"I think we started out a little slow, but we're getting there," Jones said. "There are still a lot of things we can work on - a lot of areas to improve - but we're getting more comfortable."
The same could be said of Jones, as he attempts to work his way back from his second knee surgery in less than three years.
Jones actually got his start at Lynden, where he played tailback for the Lions' freshman team.
"I remember going up against these guys then," Jones said. "It was a close game - I think we won 7-0. ... It's kind of funny."
What wasn't funny was an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee Jones suffered that year, which ended up developing into not only a tear of that ligament, but also tears in his medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments and damage to the meniscus cartilage in the knee.
"First it was my ACL, but I kept playing on it and it got worse, because I didn't know any better," Jones said.
He had surgery on the knee that winter, and then transferred to Mount Baker. He didn't play football for the Mountaineers and ended up transferring to Meridian midway through his sophomore year.
"He was very quiet," said Ames, who last week moved into second place in state history for career high school football coaching victories with 288. "I had him in a couple of classes I subbed for, and I remember he kept his mouth shut and worked hard. Then he came out for football (as a junior) and we saw right away this kid could be something special."
It would take some time for that ability to show, though.
Jones finished second on the team to Junior Castro with 469 yards rushing and tied Max McGuinn with six rushing TDs, in a season that was highlighted by a 90-yard, two-touchdown game against Nooksack Valley and an 81-yard, one-TD effort against Eatonville in the tri-district playoffs.
After the season, he underwent a second surgery to clean up some torn meniscus in the knee.
"I think it really helped," Jones said. "The physical therapy really helps more, because you know what you've got to do and it's more focused."
And it seems to have paid off on the field, too.
He opened the season with 106 yards and two TDs against Burlington, before logging 109 yards receiving with a TD against Lakewood. He followed that up with 148 yards rushing and four TDs in a Week 4 win at Sehome.
"I think he's finally getting comfortable with his injury," Ames said. "Having two surgeries is pretty dramatic for anyone. ... Denver Vander Yacht had two ACL surgeries a few years back. We saw what Denver did coming back was awesome, so we knew it could happen. It just takes a little time."
Jones said he still feels "a little iffy" at times and wears a knee brace to help him "mentally feel safe."
"It just takes time," he said. "You've got to have patience, but I do feel more and more comfortable."
And the more comfortable he feels, the less comfortable opposing defenses can be.
Jones said he likes the running styles of Minnesota Vikings standout Adrian Peterson and the Detroit Lions' Reggie Bush.
"I like how physical AP is, and he's fast, so he can run over somebody and still beat them," Jones said. "Reggie Bush, he's got some quick feet in the holes. That's a big deal. ... I try to run people over, but that doesn't happen all the time. Then I try to be like Reggie Bush - I like how he hits the hole fast and can juke people."
Ames, who said Jones is also a "great corner" on defense, said he sees a little more of Bush in the back modestly listed at 5-foot-6, 140 pounds.
"He's got another gear," Ames said. "This last year and a half, he's gotten to where he can turn that gear on. ... I don't see (Peterson in him), but if he sees it, that's awesome.
"He's a great kid. I told somebody last week when he comes into a room with that smile, it just lights it up. The kids picked him captain, and he's a great captain. He's really good with the last freshman all the way up to the top senior. He's not afraid to get in the grill of somebody, but he's always positive. He's just a great kid to be around."
Reach David Rasbach at 360-715-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org .