tampabay.com

Nothing stops 'Superman'

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published September 24, 2006


TAMPA - The strips of green hand towels symbolized kryptonite. Blake's defensive players taped them to their beltlines Saturday as a psychological countermeasure to the counter runs of the kid they call "Superman."

But as the game progressed, the scheme fizzled like Chris Simms' passer rating. "Superman" - Carlton Tyrone Jones Jr. - performed at a high level, even as his glucose fell to low ones.

When it comes to debilitating Middleton's fleet, sturdy 16-year-old junior, kryptonite has nothing on carbs. Jones is equal parts dynamo and diabetic.

"Some things you can't explain," Tigers coach Harry Hubbard said earlier this week. "And he's one of them."

Between swigs of Capri Sun on the Tigers' sideline Saturday, Jones' adrenaline surged as his insulin sank. Barely seven months after nearly falling into a diabetic coma, he ran for 170 yards on 23 carries in Middleton's 19-12 victory against Blake before 9,003 at Raymond James Stadium.

"I was a little tired at halftime, but then I had a (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich," said Jones, elected his team's outstanding player Saturday. "And a little bit of Gatorade."

He also had his stash of Capri Suns nestled on ice in a large orange cooler on the sideline. Jones estimated he went through six of them Saturday.

And hours before assuming his customary role of the Tigers' offensive shot in the arm, he had to give himself one in the same spot. Another one followed later. When the arm becomes tender, he switches to the thigh or midriff.

While Jones pricks himself with insulin, everyone around him pinches themselves with incredulity.

Only last winter Jones was complaining of headaches and constant thirst, and gradually starting to look more like a distance runner than a shifty one.

"We saw him losing weight," said Marion Gyden, the grandmother with whom he lives. "It was basically in his neck, and he always had a big neck."

A doctor was consulted. The diagnosis came on Feb. 20 - the birthday of his mother, Dana Gyden. According to Marion, Jones' glucose was at 500. Normal, she has learned, is around 100.

"If we wouldn't have taken him to the doctor, they said he would've gone into a diabetic coma," Marion said.

Jones hadn't played a game in midday heat and hadn't been forced to wield any serious durability until Saturday, when a Yellow Jackets TD pass in the fourth cut Middleton's lead to seven.

Hubbard insists if he hadn't pulled Jones out of some previous games early, he might be flirting with 1,000 yards today. The unofficial tally is 776 - in five games.

"It's God-given talent," Hubbard said. "When God gives you talent, nobody can touch that."

These days, that natural athleticism is fortified by green vegetables, sugar-free Jell-O and plenty of baked and broiled foods. His favorite, seafood pasta, is pretty much off-limits, and the only thing he encounters that even appears fried is a nose guard in the fourth quarter.

"Sometimes I get worried," said Marion, whose husband, Walter, is a borderline diabetic.

"But the doctor reassures us that it will be all right just as long as he does what he's supposed to do and eats the right food."