That’s what senior cornerback Jonathon Mincy has been doing since his arrest in late June for marijuana possession. Since that time he has worked behind the scenes to make sure his coaches and teammates know they can count on him this season. From giving an emotional apology to his teammates to taking his job very seriously as a counselor at Auburn’s summer football camps, Mincy has stepped up in every area on and off the field, but that’s not a surprise to position coach Melvin Smith.
“Jonathon has never had a problem with anything like that before in his career so I know who he is,” Smith said. “I said sometimes God is telling us something. I’m a believer. I’m a strong Christian man so I’m a believer. I grew up in the South, I’m a Southerner so my faith is big to me. I think we have to listen and look at signs. Usually we get signs to let us know that what you’re doing is important and I think it really kind of got his attention and he’s been his best since.”
That belief is something Mincy said has been important for him as he looks to regain the trust of his teammates, coaches and the Auburn fans. Always a coach to give advice on football and life in general, Smith has become much more to Mincy than he ever imagined in the short time they've been together.
"It’s been real big," Mincy said of their relationship. "Coach Smith is like a father-figure I never had. I grew up in a single-parent home so when I got here, different coaching changes, Coach Smith has kind of been the outlook that I can go talk to about anything on and off the field. I’m very blessed to have him as a coach, and just the rest of this coaching staff, it’s a blessing."
One of the changes for Mincy has been becoming a coach on the field for the defense. Even though he won’t be able to start the season opener vs. Arkansas as part of his punishment by Coach Gus Malzahn, the senior hasn’t let that hinder his enthusiasm for his final season on the Plains. In addition to coaching high school kids in a camp he has also spent a lot of time with young teammates such as Kamryn Melton, T.J. Davis and Kalvaraz Bessent helping them with their techniques and fundamentals. Smith said the way Mincy has stepped up his game makes his job much easier.
When I talk about things now I don’t do much talking,” Smith said. “I let them talk and I listen to them. They are so much farther along. Mincy coached all the young kids this summer and their techniques looked clean/ I’m talking manicured, like the ideal lawn.”
With the ability to play both the field and boundary corner positions, Mincy is a valuable player for Smith and the Tigers this season. Improving his play physically and mentally has meant a step forward for the entire secondary. Now seeing a group that understands what the coaches are looking for and what they expect out of the defense, Smith said the secondary should be much improved in 2014 and Mincy is one of the biggest reasons why.
“I just see a lot of carry-over,” he said. “We play faster. Mincy, last year he played the field corner. They were still kind of left and right in their minds that both positions were the same. I think they had one secondary coach that coached the safeties and the corners. A lot of times you’re more into assignments when you’re like that. I’m a technique coach. I’m big on technique. Leverage and technique are big with me because we don’t have much margin for error at corner.”
Mincy knocks the ball away from a Florida State WR
Always a fierce competitor, Mincy looks more driven than ever this preseason following his off-field hiccup that gave his reputation a jolt. While his coach said the Atlanta native has been one of his top guys since Smith made the move from Mississippi State, he admits he’s seen a change in Mincy and that’s the ultimate victory for a coach.
“He’s been good, more consistent, but he’s really been consistent since this happened,” Smith said. “I felt like it was a negative, but it was good. Sometimes you have some adversity. I think I know who Jonathon Mincy is. He’s shown me. He started 14 games last year, he didn’t miss a game. He’s a great comeback guy.
“Just like in the Alabama game after that bad thing happened to him, he came back and he finished the game and he played well in the SEC Championship Game and played his best game in the national championship. He’s really been a good leader. That’s the only hiccup he’s had. I’m going to tell you something, it’s kind of like the prodigal son. I thank God that they didn’t give up on me when I was young and I think that’s why God put me in his life, to help him through things like that.”