Continuing the series that began in 2016-17, each Wednesday MGoBlue.com will highlight a Michigan student-athlete and their academic pursuits. These are our Scholar-Athlete Stories, presented by Absopure.
By David Woelkers Jr.
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing in at 325 pounds, offensive lineman Trente Jones is, by all accounts, a mountain of a man.
That is not what is most impressive about the graduate student from Grayson, Ga., but — as Jones puts it — he wants to be more than a stereotype of a football player, and his credentials more than back that up. Named to the Academic All-Big Ten team three straight years between 2020 and 2022, Jones’ inquisitive demeanor and astutely creative mind have propelled him to great success in the classroom and a wide skill set in his personal writing endeavors.
“I’ve always wanted to set myself apart from the pack in the educational aspect of being a college athlete,” Jones said. “(Earning Academic All-Big Ten honors) is something that’s been very important to me in my time here. Athletes in general are pretty unfairly seen more as prioritizing our sports over our degrees and our educations, and so I’ve always wanted to lead the way when it comes to an educational mindset.
“My goal is to be one of the best — the leaders and best, as they say — and I want to be seen as more than ‘just an athlete.'”
What interests Jones most is a form of creative expression called “worldbuilding,” creating and fleshing out the setting in which a story takes place. While it sounds simple enough, those who focus on worldbuilding — like Jones — take it one step further, turning what is usually background information into a truly interactive world. It requires diving into a world’s history, geography and even the laws of physics and nature of the created universe.
Jones first was introduced to this kind of creative expression in the gaming sphere, where the wide variety of settings and styles of gameplay have hooked him in since his childhood, from more grounded settings such as Call of Duty to the wildly fantastical worlds of Skyrim and Elden Ring.
“Growing up, I played a lot of multiplayer games,” Jones said. “Now I’ve really gotten into single-player story games. I really enjoy exploring the fantasy aspects and the worlds, and I wanted to figure out how to build those — like make up a game I’d want to play and build out the world and the setting for it.”
Embracing his creative side, Jones chose to mix an English major and a selection of marketing courses in order to turn that love of worldbuilding into a career. Through his English studies, Jones learned to hone his craft in a technical sense, while the marketing side taught him how to sell his creativity to companies around the world.
“I originally wanted to go fully into marketing, but I tweaked my plans a little early on,” Jones said. “I decided to basically do an unofficial marketing minor, just a bunch of the classes, and went into English for my major because I enjoy writing, but I wasn’t super great at it at the start. Those classes have helped me figure out how to get a reader more engaged in what I write, which obviously is a big part of marketing.”
When deciding how best to spend his extra year of eligibility after the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones opted to further advance the marketability of his creative skills by pursuing a master’s degree in social work. The meaning behind his choice in postgraduate education is two-fold — not only does it advance his career goals, but a personal stake as well.
“I like helping people in the same ways that people have helped me,” Jones said. “Dealing with different people and how best to talk to them. (Former director of athletic counseling) Abigail Eiler has been a huge influence on me; she does such a good job of knowing each person she meets with and knowing what makes them tick, and I want to use those sorts of strengths in my own career.”
While Jones has avoided sharing his written work publicly, save for his closest friends and family, he aims to one day incorporate his style of work into a larger audience — particularly within the untapped market of the metaverse. As companies look to construct not just brand strategies, but true brand spaces, Jones sees a chance to get on the ground floor of the next generation of marketing.
“I see it as a massive opportunity out of college,” Jones said. “What I’d like to do is maybe get with an illustrator — or someone that can turn my work into a visual thing — and use our talents together in unison to bring things to life. Whether that’s for branding or to work with a company to create an actual space for that company and make it visually appealing. Something like the metaverse that’s not necessarily beginning anymore, it’s still early. Companies haven’t expanded a lot on all the possibilities, and I think I could bring those to the table.”
• Scholar Stories Archive
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