Athletes & Celebrities

No Holds Barred With Thomas Q Jones

Most NFL running backs hope to make it through their career to live a comfortable life, recovering from the hits. Thomas Q Jones is an exception.

No Holds Barred With Thomas Q Jones
Andy Lyons / Staff / Getty

Rushing Forward

Earlier that morning, with a round-the- clock shoot several hours away, there’s still time for Jones to take care of some unfinished business—it’s arms day. And it’s a good thing his gym is within walking distance: Jones no longer drives or even owns a car while living in L.A., despite earning more than $30 million over his football career. He instead relies on Uber, and his feet, to get him to auditions and acting class.

“I didn’t want to be a former NFL player who was getting into acting. I wanted to be an actor and start from scratch,” he says.

For 12 NFL seasons, Jones mastered the arts of rushing and reckless physicality. Taken seventh overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2000, he finished his career in 2011 as the NFL’s 25th all-time leading rusher (10,591 yards), one of just 29 rushers to reach 10,000 career yards. His career highlights include an AFC rushing title, a Pro Bowl appearance, and five 1,000-yard seasons.

“I was once told [by a casting agent] to lose weight in my arms. How do you lose weight in your arms?”

In 2007, Jones’ 123-yard performance in the NFC Championship game led the Chicago Bears to Super Bowl XLI. But despite his best efforts—rushing for 112 yards, including a 50-yard run in the first quarter— Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts would claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a 29–17 victory.

“That game still haunts me,” Jones remembers. “I had a chance to be a world champion. Every year, Brian Urlacher and I will text each other: ‘How did we lose that game?’ ”

Now at a chiseled and game-ready 205 pounds—nearly 25 pounds less than his playing weight—the 38-year-old physically looks capable of still handling 20 carries a game. But internal reminders, which include a rib injury he sustained during his rookie season that still requires twice-weekly visits to a chiropractor and at times leaves him with shortness of breath, numerous concussions, and chronic knee pain, convince him that acting is the safer profession these days.

“I’m glad I don’t have to play in minus-5° or 125° weather,” Jones says. “For the rest of my life I don’t have to worry about being hurt. You go in the shower and something stings or hurts. Your fingernails are no longer being cracked open. I’m still hurt and injured from football, but unless I fall down, there aren’t going to be new injuries.”

When he was waived by the Chiefs in 2011, essentially ending his NFL career and taking away his primary outlet, Jones had a momentary loss of motivation for training.

“I had a hard time figuring out why I should be working out,” he says. “You’re training for the season, you have Pro Bowls, new contracts, and Super Bowls as motivation to go every day to the gym. Before, I would get $50,000 bonus checks just for working out. That’s not an option now.”

In 2007–09 with the New York Jets, Jones would complete the morning team workout—cleans, squats, and other heavy compound exercises. Then, following two to three hours of practice, Jones would hit the weight room a second time for his own personal workout— heavy bench presses supersetted with pullups, incline presses with seated cable rows, topped off with straight-bar curl dropsets. This allowed game day to become the easiest part of the week.

“When Sunday came, I felt like I had armor on,” he says. “My body was ready to crash into anybody. Now I’m at a good size where I could do action stuff and regular stuff. I’m not too big.”

Training for the big screen has become minimalistic compared with his NFL days. Wearing a wifebeater and Nike sweat shorts this morning, Jones keeps it light, grabbing a set of 35s and banging out 10 to 15 reps of alternating curls while adding external rotations in between sets to keep his shoulders loose. From there he drops down to 30s, then 25s. With casting agents rarely seeking out the swole doctor or lawyer, light weights along with some cardio consisting of light runs, boxing, and basketball, these are all the weights Jones needs these days.

“I was once told [by a casting agent] to lose weight in my arms,” he recalls. “How do you lose weight in your arms?”

And when it comes to diet, his calories are a lot less now than at training camp.

“I was used to eating four to five times a day as an NFL player,” he says. “It was huge meals all day. I’d have two plates full; food was falling off the edges. I was happy.”

Today’s post-workout breakfast is one of just two meals Jones normally eats each day to control his weight. His daily diet usually consists of a limited variety of salads—chicken or turkey. While waiting for his order at the restaurant adjacent to his gym—today it’s a turkey club sandwich—Jones has time to check in on one of his other ventures—he’s also a tech entrepreneur. His app, Castar (, a social media platform built for creatives in the entertainment industry to connect, was recently listed as one of 12 startups named to Google’s inaugural Entrepreneurs Exchange Program for Black Founders.

“To see someone else’s dream come true through something that I created, that’s a rush,” he says.