Jonathan Giles can’t help but feel a sense of comfort as he walks around Texas Southern’s campus these days.
It’s a trek Giles has made since he was a seven-year-old kid turned loose on campus during the summer and winter breaks while his dad, Lonzo Giles, worked as the head video coordinator for the Tigers athletic department. So it was an easy decision in 2019 after playing wide receiver for big-time college football programs at Texas Tech and LSU, and with other top schools interested in his services, Giles wanted to play his final year of eligibility where he grew up.
“This was home,” Giles said on a recent afternoon as his eyes literally pointed from building to building around campus. “TSU was like my second home. So when I transferred from LSU, a lot of teams were calling me saying they want me. But it was time to go back home.”
It was even more personal than that because with his dad being responsible for video on TSU gamedays and Giles also playing football those same days, his father rarely got to attend his games as a Red Raider or Bayou Bengal. Now, not only does his dad get to attend every game but they have that daily interaction Giles had been missing all of those years.
“Now we go from him only seeing me for two games, to I see him after every practice, after every game. So it’s wonderful,” said Giles, who is a sixth-year senior. “I get to talk to him before meetings, I get to see him every day. I get to see my parents every day, go home, so it’s wonderful.”
Giles has had an incredible journey to arrive at this point. After starring at Elkins as a quarterback, Giles accepted a scholarship to play wide receiver at Texas Tech in 2015. It was with the Red Raiders he quickly became the favorite target of future Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whom Giles simply calls Pat.
In 2016, Giles and Mahomes hooked up for 69 receptions for 1,158 yard and 13 touchdowns for Giles’ best season yet as a collegian.
“Me and Pat Mahomes really had a good connection,” Giles said. “I remember us working out sometimes at six in the morning and sometimes at six at night. When he called, you show up, no matter what time of the day or what you are doing, you show up.”
Giles left Tech after that magical season and landed at LSU amid lofty expectations that included him being given the Tigers’ prized No.7 jersey to start the 2018 season. Things didn’t go quite as hoped on the playing field, but the experience and life lessons learned were far more important in Giles’s growth.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the good season that I had had (at Tech) but it made me stronger,” said Giles, who had just 10 catches for 59 yards and no touchdowns in his one season on the field with the Tigers. “I appreciate the experience I had there, because it made me a better person in the end.”
His hope is to make up for what he didn’t accomplish at LSU in his final season of college eligibility this season with the Tigers. Giles, who took a medical redshirt in his first season with TSU, had just six catches for 49 yards and one touchdown in the abbreviated two-game schedule the Tigers played this past spring.
His goal for the fall is to finish off his college career with 70 catches, 1, 500 yards and 20 touchdowns while also leading the Tigers to a SWAC championship and the Black College National Championship.
“Those goals, we can all reach,” said Giles, who has played in 38 games, caught 101 passes for 1,421 yards and 17 touchdowns so far in his career. “It’s just about getting better day by day, and don’t take no days off.”