James Jones played fullback for coach Charley Pell’s Florida Gators football team that posted the biggest one-year turnaround in the history of NCAA Division I football: from 0–10–1 in 1979 to an 8–4 bowl team in 1980. Jones finished his Gator career with 2,026 yards rushing, 593 yards receiving and 48 yards passing, and led the team in rushing yardage for three consecutive seasons. In 1998, he was later inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great”. In 2006, The Gainesville Sun sportswriters ranked him as the No. 45 all-time greatest Gator from the first century of the Florida Gators football team.
The Detroit Lions selected Jones in the first round (13th pick overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft, and he played there until 1988. Jones finished his 10-season NFL career having played in 135 games, starting in 91 of them, rushed for 3,626 yards and 26 touchdowns and caught 318 passes for 2,641 yards and 10 touchdowns.