CHARLOTTE, N.C.?— Tony Jones carried the rock for his rock Monday night.

His rock is Rebecca Jones, his high school sweetheart who became his wife four months ago.

If it wasn’t for her, perhaps Tony Jones wouldn’t have continued chasing his NFL dream.

“There were days when I wanted to quit,” Jones said. “Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.”

But Jones didn’t give up on football, and the New Orleans Saints didn’t give up on him. That proved to be a good thing for both Jones and the Saints in Monday night’s 20-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Jones, pushed into duty after Jamaal Williams was injured, scored the first touchdown of his NFL career with a 2-yard run in the third quarter. He scored another one in the fourth that pretty much sealed the win.

The football from his first touchdown will go to his pregnant wife, who also happens to be celebrating a birthday Tuesday.

The second football?

“That’s mine,” said Jones, flashing a wide smile.

Making the touchdowns even more special for Jones is that they came during a Monday Night Football game, the NFL’s grandest stage.

“It’s big, man,” Jones said. “My journey, I’m a journeyman. I’ve been on three teams in the last 12 months. God is real.”

What a journey it has been.

Jones first arrived in New Orleans in 2020 as an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame. He was waived during the final roster cuts that year, but the Saints kept him around on the practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster late in the season and got his very first carry that year against the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium, the same venue he scored his first touchdown Monday night.

He made the Saints' 53-man roster in 2021, but an ankle injury derailed his season. He was waived in 2022, then signed by the Seattle Seahawks. In March, he signed with Sean Payton’s Denver Broncos before being let go in August. The Saints signed him to their practice squad three weeks ago.

Jones still remembers getting the call from Saints running backs coach Joel Thomas.

“It was crazy,” Jones said. “(New Orleans) was home for me for a while. When things went wrong, I had to leave. But God finds a way. When Joel called me, I said, ‘I’m ready to ride back.’ I didn’t care if I was on (practice) squad, active, I didn’t care. ‘Hey coach, I’m back.’ ”

Jones was called up from the practice squad for both of the Saints’ first two games. Man, was he needed for this one.

Williams and Jones were the only two running backs on the active roster.

“I didn’t even know it was going to be just me and him,” Jones said. “Coach had us running drills, and I’m like ‘Dang, it’s only two of us.' "

A day that started with two running backs ended with just one. Williams injured his hamstring in the first half, leaving even more carries for Jones.?

Jones finished with 34 yards on 12 carries.

“It was awesome,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “He ran the ball effectively. We blocked up front and he made the right cuts. Two touchdowns in the game. I thought that was big for him and big for us.”

Yes it was, especially for a running back room that keeps getting thinner. Alvin Kamara will miss one more game because of a four-game suspension. Rookie Kendre Miller, limited in practice last week after returning from a hamstring injury, was inactive for Monday’s game. Kirk Merritt is also on the roster, but he was on the inactive list as well. And now there is this latest injury to Williams.

It helps, of course, having someone like the always reliable Taysom Hill around. He rushed nine times for a team-high 75 yards.

But it was Jones who found his way to the end zone twice on a night when every Saints’ point came from players who played at Notre Dame. Blake Grupe scored the other points, kicking a pair of field goals and two extra points.

“Fighting Irish, all the way,” Jones boasted.

Jones knows a thing or two about fighting. It’s been part of his mantra to help him stick around.

You could see it as he fought his way into the end zone twice Monday.

And you could see it as he fights to make the most of this latest opportunity.

“Fight,” Jones said. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

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