Parks. Motels. Shelters.
Living in those places may seem out of the ordinary for most people, but were all too familiar for James Jones.
With both parents addicted to drugs, Jones and his mother were homeless, forced to resort to living from place to place for 15 years.
"The roughest part of being homeless was when you knew (your time in a homeless shelter) was up and having nowhere to go," Jones said. "You could only stay there three months at a time. (After,) you'd sleep on park benches and then (go) motel to motel. My mom and I stood in front of 7-11s, Walmarts and liquor stores asking people for money for a motel for one night. Those were the roughest times. I actually got excited when we were in a homeless shelter because you knew you'd have a roof over your head for three months."
Stability is something that can be taken for granted. Jones estimates he lived in five to six homeless shelters in his life and bounced around six to seven elementary schools. It wasn't until high school, when he went to live with his grandmother, that things became steady and his life turned around for the better.
"When I graduated eighth grade, I told my mom that I was going to go live with my grandma. My mom was doing very badly. I kind of felt like I was a little bit of extra luggage for her (and that) she would be better on her own, trying to get back on her feet. I was just a kid. I couldn't help her and didn't have the sense to (tell her) she needed to stop doing drugs. I told my mom, 'You need to get on your feet, and it'll be easier if I'm not there.' I went to live with my grandma in high school and that was a blessing because I had a chance to get to go to one school for all four years."
Jones admits he never was down on his situation and always strived to be above it. He never blamed his parents for their transgressions and said his lifelong dream as a child was to make it to the NFL and buy his mom a house. He delivered.
"My mom will tell you to this day, I never complained. I never really got down on myself because I truly never wanted my mom to feel worse than she already felt. I was always an upbeat kid. Everything happens for a reason and it's alright (because) God has a plan for us. My main motivation was to continue to work hard, strive to get my mom out of that situation and make sure my kids never had to go through anything like that."
In talking with Jones, there's no façade. No rehearsed answers. There is only pure honesty from someone who to this day is appreciative to wake up with a roof over his head. He is someone who is hell-bent on never taking his current occupation and the perks that come with it for granted.
"I'd walk into a cafeteria and see pancakes, waffles, and everything. Then guys would look at the food and say, 'Oh man, it's the same thing again?' And I'd look at them and go, 'Man, what are you talking about? You're blessed in here!' Growing up like that, it definitely made me humble. It definitely made me appreciate things a lot more because I didn't have those things."
Having gone through free agency for the third time in his career, Jones was in a sense "homeless" once again. But since Tuesday, he's glad he's found a home here in San Diego and is excited to show Chargers fans how passionate he is.
"I told my wife that I hope I can go out here and make enough plays, get a contract extension and finish a San Diego Charger. I want stability for my kids. I had stability the first eight years of my career but these last couple years have been a little rollercoaster. If I can come out here and make some plays and show them I still have some football left in me, then hopefully in a perfect world, that's how I would want it to end."