Zay Jones’ NFL debut against his brother is a dream come true

Posted Aug 12, 2017

For Bills wide receiver Zay Jones, his brother Vikings WR Cayleb Jones, and their family, football is more than just a sport. As the brothers played against each other during Buffalo's preseason opener, their family watched proudly from the stands at New Era Field.

For Bills rookie wide receiver Zay Jones and his family, football has always been more than just a game.

From Zay’s father Robert Jones, who enjoyed a 10-year NFL career, to his older brother Cayleb who currently plays wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings and his youngest brother Levi who plays linebacker for Southern California, football is a major part of the family’s identity. Committed to supporting one another on and off the field, the entire family including his parents, three sisters, aunt, uncle and cousins made the trip to Orchard Park to watch Zay and Cayleb take the field at the same time. Not only did the game signify a major milestone for the brothers, who were making their NFL game debuts, it was meaningful for the family.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Robert. “To have two of your sons, we actually have three, to make it to this level, it’s a wonderful opportunity. Just the ride over here – the nervousness that you feel, you just want both to do well. Someone has to win, someone has to lose. But, I love the fact that both of them have worked their butts off and have gotten to this point. I am just excited to see how they do on the field.”

While she’s certainly no stranger to cheering on her boys, Maneesha Jones admits that having both Zay and Cayleb play their first games at the professional level on the same day was like a dream come true.

 “Of course I watched them when they were young; they have an amazing relationship,” said Maneesha. They’re best friends. I don’t think I could have imagined them playing against each other, especially their first game. I would never have dreamt that. When Thurman [Thomas] was on the stand and announced Zay’s name [at this year’s NFL Draft], Cayleb said to me, ‘Mom, we play the Bills the first game.’ I could not even believe it.”

His younger sisters Leah, Priscilla and Ana, also shared in their parents’ joy and explained that despite growing up around the game, having both of their brothers make it to the NFL is exciting.

“It most definitely is [exciting], because it is both of their first professional games,” said Priscilla. “We have been dreaming of this for them. I would like to think, I am going to be coming to their Super Bowl games.”

Katosha Bryan, Zay and Cayleb’s aunt who drove from North Carolina to show her support, fought back tears of joy as she described what it’s been like to watch their journeys unfold.

“It is surreal, I am trying not to cry,” she explained. “They are still four and two [years old] in my mind. I used to go before I started having my own family, and I would go and stay with them… I got to tackle early with them, and throw footballs early with them, so to have them be grown men, and good grown men, doing their thing and living out their dreams, and working in their gifts and talents – it’s amazing.”

“I could always see they were destined for great things…,”she explained. “ [I knew] it was possible [for them to make it to the NFL]… because my oldest sister’s husband at that time also played football against Robert, so I watched my two-brother-in-law’s play against each other a long, long time ago. For me, this is kind of history repeating itself to a degree…There aren’t really words to describe it. It is exciting, it’s nerve wracking. How do I cheer for both, but we are going to do it, so I am excited.”

Overcome with emotion, the Joneses, made their way to the sideline to greet Zay and Cayleb and wish them luck. Decked out in both Bills and Vikings gear, they proudly watched as the brothers ran out of the tunnel and started a new chapter in their lives. Although it was all business for the duo during the game, afterward they came together to meet up with their family, swap jerseys, exchange stories and share a few laughs. Having made memories that will last a lifetime, the Joneses will always cherish their experience at New Era Field. For them, football really is family.