GREEN BAY – Before nearly every football game he ever played in, Aaron Jones would take a moment during pregame warmups to locate his father, Alvin Sr., in the stands.
Prior to Monday night's game against the Detroit Lions, all the Packers' Pro Bowl running back had to do was touch the pendant around his neck to feel his dad's presence.
After his father's passing in April, Jones had a special necklace made with some of his father's ashes encased inside a black football locket. It was with him during part of his historic four-touchdown performance, which helped propel the Packers to a 35-17 win over the Lions in front of 77,240 at Lambeau Field.
Unfortunately, the pendant came detached from the chain after one of Jones' TDs (he thought it might be his second before halftime).
The Packers had their grounds crew looking for it after the game in the north end zone, but Jones was still all smiles – knowing what football meant to his father.
"If there was any place to lose it, that's where my dad would've wanted me to lose it," said Jones, who also had 115 total yards. "So, I know he's smiling."
It's been a difficult six months for Jones, whose father's passing at 57 due to complications from COVID-19 came just weeks after Jones signed a contract extension to stay in Green Bay.
Afterwards, Jones dedicated his 2021 season to his dad. While Alvin Sr. wasn't in his usual spot in the end zone Monday night, Jones did have 15 of his closest family and friends in attendance, including his mother, Vurgess, brother, Alvin Jr., and son, Aaron Jr.
Jones treated his family to a dominant performance. In addition to his 67 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards, Jones became the first Packers running back since Andy Uram in 1942 to catch three touchdown passes in a single game.
It started with a push pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter that capped an 11-play, 75-yard opening drive for the Packers' offense. Jones came right back with another 1-yard TD catch in the second quarter off play-action and an 11-yard catch-and-run for a score in the third.
"He's a really versatile player with great hands," said receiver Davante Adams of Jones. "He makes it tough on defenses. You don't really know what to do as a D-coordinator. I'm just glad I'm a wideout and I don't have the job of dealing with a team like us that has a running back that can go catch three touchdowns in a game."
A big emphasis for the Packers this week was to get their ground game going early after they were limited to just 43 rushing yards on 15 carries last Sunday against New Orleans.
With Detroit keeping two safeties back, Jones nearly surpassed that total on the opening series when he carried the ball five times for 30 yards. He also plowed in for a 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to complete his second career four-TD game.
Jones previously rushed for four touchdowns back in his home state of Texas during a 34-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 6, 2019. Monday's encore not only helped the Packers pick up their first NFC North win of the season, but also served as the perfect way for Jones to honor his father's memory.
"He's been through a lot," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He's a great human being. He adds a lot to our team as just a player. He's an exceptional player. I was teasing him in training camp when he missed a few days in a row. It's just different when you watch the film when 33's back there."
After a disappointing 38-3 loss to the Saints last week, Jones was proud of how the Packers' offense responded against the Lions. He thinks his father would be, too.
"It's super special," Jones said. "My dad's always taught me as a man is how you respond to adversity … or how you respond is what makes a man, really. So I think we came out, we did a good job of responding."