Jones Catching Attention

FAYETTEVILLE -- It didn't take long for former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones to make an impression at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this week.

In fact, Jones' agent, Dave Butz II, said it really only took one practice. When the 6-foot-6, 237-pounder, who has lined up at receiver all week, hauled in a 40-yard bomb in practice over former LSU cornerback Corey Webster, he turned heads.

"It was funny, after the first practice, he said, 'I'm noticing a lot more people are wanting to talk to me now,'" Butz said.

Jones drew rave reviews from Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John Gruden and opened the eyes of other curious onlookers. He was the subject of stories all over the country, from ESPN, USA Today and The Associated Press. Now, Jones will wrap up what Butz described as an "extremely valuable" week when he, along with nearly 100 NFL Draft hopefuls, participates in the 56th Senior Bowl this afternoon.

Jones was one of the more intriguing stories at the all-star game because of his willingness to play receiver, tight end, quarterback and, even, deep snapper during highly scrutinized practices. He'll concentrate on catching passes for a South team today after a productive week in which Gruden told reporters he'd be "stunned if (Jones) doesn't play somewhere for somebody."

"I have friends that coach in high school," Gruden told "My next-door neighbor coaches Pop Warner. I've never gone to a practice and seen a guy play quarterback, wide receiver and tight end."

Jones' father, Steve, said his son hasn't given up hopes of playing quarterback in the NFL. But Jones wanted the league personnel to get a close look at his versatility and willingness to play other positions.

He, who is going to next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis as a quarterback, had offers to play his natural position in other all-star games. Jones accepted an invitation to play receiver in Mobile, wanting the best opportunity to showcase his overall talents and show scouts his willingness to play anywhere.

"Gruden looks at it like, 'Hey, here's this kid that has played quarterback all his career and yet he's willing to come here and take a chance,'" Steve Jones said. "Matt made the decision that this was the best move because he just wants to play in the NFL. It doesn't matter what position.

"So, (the Senior Bowl) gives him a chance to see the most coaches."

Steve Jones said his son, no doubt, is behind other receivers that have played the position throughout their collegiate careers. But he believes Jones already has intrigued NFL scouts. The Tampa Bay coaching staff assigned one person, offensive quality control coach Kyle Shanahan, to monitor Jones all week and Butz said his client did a good job of handling the crash course at receiver.

Gruden called Jones' over-the-shoulder catch one of the plays of the day on Tuesday. Jones added another spectacular, one-handed grab on Wednesday.

"There were so many teams all along that thought about him as something other than a quarterback," Butz said. "This was the ideal stage to show that he can do more than just play quarterback."

Jones said there were too many interviews to count, but his son had one-on-one opportunities to speak with the Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants. Butz said some teams see Jones as a quarterback, others as a receiver and a few more believe he'll fit perfectly into the role of an H-back.

The Senior Bowl is just the first step for Jones, who is scheduled to return to New Jersey to continue training at a speed school in preparation for next month's combine. Jones will make a brief stop in Fort Smith after today's game, but will go back to work in hopes of running a dazzling 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.

Jones still has plenty of work and much to prove before the 2005 NFL Draft in April. But Butz said the attention he garnered at the Senior Bowl was a great start.

"It went wonderful," Butz said. "It couldn't have gone any better actually. He certainly turned a few heads, that's for sure. It's not a question of what can he do. It's more a question of what can't he do."

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