The way Lovejoy (Ga.) defensive tackle and recent University of Arkansas commit Patrick Jones sees it, he and the Razorbacks were meant for each other.
Jones (6-2, 290, 4.78) pledged to sign with Arkansas last Sunday despite having never visiting the campus – something he and six others will do on official visits this weekend - but doing plenty of homework about his new favorite team.
"The way I see it Arkansas and myself are a lot alike," Jones said. "They were an underdog going into the season, nobody was talking about them doing anything and then they reel off 10 victories, win an SEC (Western Division) Championship. They do that with a lot of players that were supposedly 2 and 3 stars guy who just went out and beat up on teams that had all the 4 and 5 star guys. That tells me a lot about their program and their coaching."
Jones, a four-year starter who had 12 sacks among his 110 tackles this past season, but because he didn't get to combines and camps last summer found himself overlooked by scouts and colleges.
"People talk about me being a hidden gem and all that," Jones said. "Some say I am a 2 star or a 3 star guy. I know that I can play football in the SEC and that regardless of how many stars someone puts on me, I have a five-star heart and a five-star will and just make the plays that need to be made."
He got an offer from Arkansas defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and jumped right on it.
"Coach Rocker talked to me back earlier in the season and then he got my highlight tape after they got back from the (Capital One) bowl," Jones said. "He called me after he watched it and said he was going to come down and we were going to get this thing done.
"He made it down last week, offered me and I couldn't see any reason not to go right ahead and commit because a school like Arkansas wanting me and Coach Rocker being there is just a perfect fit for me," Jones added. "People tell me what a monster Coach Rocker was back in the day and I know he can take my ability, my work ethic and my heart and make me a monster in college as well."
Lovejoy head coach Al Hughes, who says he has sent 56 players on to D-1 schools in his career and has six playing in the SEC right now, certainly agrees the right characteristics are there for Hughes to graduate to monster status.
"He is by far the best defensive player that we have ever had at this school," Hughes said. "He is just a great athlete for his size. He runs like a little guy and used to play tailback in junior high. We still used him at tailback in our big boy offense. He would run over some and makes moves on some others."
Jones reports that he twice rushed for over 2,000 yards in the seventh and eighth grades – as a 6-0, 220-pound tailback - before moving to defense in high school in the ninth grade.
"I had always played running back and still have the middle school record for rushing," Jones said. "But once I got to high school, we use more of a scat-back instead of a big guy like myself. So I just took to defense and made the most of it."
Jones started out as a linebacker, moved to defensive end in the 10th grade, split time between the pair in the 11th and then moved to defensive tackle as he continued to pack on the pounds and strength.
"He just has the ability to make plays, especially for a guy that's inside," Hughes said. "He uses that quickness and strength and just beats people to the ball. Arkansas is really getting a great player. He is really going to be a surprise for the fans, have an impact early and they are going to fall in love with him and his effort."
Speaking of strength there have been reports of Jones benching just 260 pounds and running a 5.1 40-yard dash instead of benching nearly 400 and running a 4.78.
Hogwash says Hughes.
"He bench presses right at 400 pounds and just lives in the weight room," Hughes said. "That report that said he bench just 260 was just wrong, unless they are talking about doing it 18 times in a row. That (5.1) is just wrong, too. He routinely runs a 4.7 or 4.8. He has great quickness and his first step is incredible."
Make no mistake this is a Tracy Rocker find per Hughes.
"Coach Rocker does a great job at keeping up with the kids done here and having great relationships with the coaches and players," Hughes added. "He's known about Patrick since he was going into the ninth grade and Coach Rocker was at Cincinnati. He knows what it takes to succeed in the SEC and he knows – just like I do – that Patrick has what it takes to make an impact in that league."
The obvious question is why didn't other big boys beat down a path to Jones' door – one obvious answer being that a lot of schools are looking for defensive tackles in the 6-4 and 6-5 range.
"We really thought he would end up at Georgia Tech or Auburn," Hughes said. "He also took unofficial visits to Georgia and Tennessee and we thought for sure going to go to one of those schools. And while they are paid attention and had him in, they never did offer or pay the big interest until we got his highlight tape out and a lot of them had already filled up. They all go after the big guys and potential first, not necessarily the guys who may be a little bit shorter but just make play after play after play."
Hughes said he will take his share of the blame for that, but he had team success in mind.
"We sacrificed a little bit for the team," Hughes said. "We stay around here during the summer and concentrate on what will make our team better than letting them go to all these camps and stuff."
"His only official visit was to Western Michigan and then he canceled ones to Troy and Kentucky and Mississippi State when Arkansas put the offer on the table," Hughes added. "Once we got his highlight tapes out a lot of people started calling, but Coach Rocker had the inside track here with us."
Jones said it is all ending well for him.
"Maybe if I had gone to all those camps that the other guys go to and got my highlight tape out early, I wouldn't have had all the scholarship offers anybody could have wanted," Jones said. "But I want to be a Razorback, Coach Rocker said he needs me and believes in me and I am going to show everybody out there just what they missed out on."
Photos courtesy of www.thomasphoto.com
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