ORLANDO, Fla. — Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay barely got to know Marlo Jones — the infant son of Lions teammate Marvin Jones who died in December — but he believes that had he gotten the chance to grow up with his siblings, he would be just as vivacious and would be proud of his father.
Slay will honor the Jones family Sunday at the Pro Bowl in Orlando with custom cleats featuring images of both the Slay and Jones families.
“It’s a tribute to my man, my brother,” Slay told ESPN on Friday. “I’m letting him know I support him and I’m here for him. Just to contribute to him — it’s a blessing for me, it’s a blessing that he’d let me do that and trust me with that. I appreciate him a lot.”
— Darius Slay (@_bigplayslay23) January 23, 2020
Slay reached out to Jones first to get his permission to pay tribute to Marlo, who was six months old when he died. The design was Slay’s idea, and cleats feature Marlo in his mother Jazmyn’s arms with a halo over his head and the words “Rest in Peace, Marlito,” his nickname.
“I put [Marvin’s] celebration in there — his hands wide like every time he scores a touchdown — and have his little man up there watching him do it,” Slay said. “I know he’d be proud up there of how his dad is continuing to raise his brothers and sisters and being a good husband to his mom. It’s a great feeling for me to be able to go out there and show that.”
“He told me he appreciated it and he’s thankful that we’re blessed to be teammates,” Slay added. “He’s a true role model and father figure in life. He continues to be a great dad and great husband.”
Jones did not play in the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers following his son’s death but attended the game with his family. The team held a moment of silence, and the family remained on the field for the national anthem. During the anthem, Marvin Jones was spotted wiping tears from his eyes.
The Jones family did not reveal what led to Marlo’s death, but Jones said at the time that he “was a fighter from day one.”
Slay said he wished he could have gotten to know Marlo’s personality.
“I know [Marvin’s] other kids are all active, so he would have been active for sure,” Slay said.
Even though they have kept in close contact since the season ended, Slay, who is also a husband and father, said he can’t begin to imagine what the Jones family is going through but emphasized that they are not alone.
“I don’t know what he’s going through, man. I can’t tell you. I haven’t experienced it, and I plan on not [experiencing it],” Slay said. “I know it was nerve-racking and heartbreaking for him, but that’s why I’m here for him, anytime, call. … He’s a brother to me, and I continue to pray for him.”