Jones Tries to Redeem

ATHENS – The truth is, no matter what else happens in his career, it will be that one bad play that Reshad Jones will be remembered for.

Few people will remember that Jones was blocked to the ground early in the run.

Few people will remember the other Georgia defenders that had a shot at Roddy Jones before he broke his run around the tackle and down the sidelines.

Few people will remember anything else Reshad Jones did in that game – the nine tackles or the interception.

What they'll remember is Reshad Jones badly missing the tackle of his namesake on the other side of the ball as Roddy Jones took a pitch on third-and-7 and dashed 54 yards for a touchdown to effectively seal Georgia Tech's first win over the Bulldogs in eight years.

And, in truth, that's what Reshad Jones remembers, too.

"That was the game-winning touchdown," Jones said. "So when we play them, I'm going to remember that and go out and play with my all, and make sure I wrap up the ball carrier on every play and every chance I get."

There was more to the play than Jones' missed tackle, but in the wake of a loss as devastating for Georgia fans as any in recent memory, his miscue grew to become more than just one mistake. It became emblematic of everything that Georgia did wrong in that game, every frustration fans had endured at the hands of last season's slumping defense.

But for Jones, it was just an honest mistake – one he'll carry with him for the rest of his career.

"I got cut on that play, and he was running, tight-roping the sidelines," Jones said. "I thought he was out of bounds and I didn't want to get a flag or nothing like that, so I just tried to push him and make sure that he was out. But evidently he wasn't out."

In the wake of the game, Jones became the poster boy for fan angst. He was reviled by the message-board contingent and questioned by even casual fans.

After the bowl game, the redshirt sophomore took a step back, considered his future and decided he was ready to move on. He was told he wouldn't be an early draft choice, but he wanted to test the waters anyway. On the night before underclassmen had to declare their eligibility for the draft, Jones' decision was all but final.

And then he reconsidered. After talking to family and friends, he began to see that play against Tech not as a reason to leave, but as a reason to stay.

"I know that he's come back and been focused," defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "He's doing well academically, doing well on the football field, improved tremendously and he's been very consistent."

Jones has learned a lot about himself and the game of football from last season's failures. He's currently second on the team in tackles with 61. He has two of Georgia's seven interceptions. He's become a foundation for the defense rather than a gamble.

"He's been our best tackler in the perimeter this year, he really has," head coach Mark Richt said. "I think he's improved greatly."

This week marks the anniversary of the play that cemented Jones' legacy at Georgia. It also marks his first shot at any true redemption.

An Atlanta native, Jones heard plenty of talk from Tech fans about Georgia's loss and the part he played in it this offseason.

But there have been lessons learned. Jones has gone through the fire and come out the other side stronger – as both a player and a person.

"I think being here at Georgia with a great coaching staff and developing my game for four years, I think I have made those strides mentally and physically," Jones said.

Jones said he plans to submit his paperwork to the NFL draft advisory committee again this year and put his chances at returning to Athens at about 50-50.

But that's in the future. He'll make that decision in a few months.

And that play that has haunted him for the past year – that's in the past. He remembers, but he won't let it define him.

It's the present that Jones is concerned with. And he aims to make the most of his opportunity this week to erase some bad memories and capitalize on a brighter future.

"I think about it, but I've put it in the back of my mind and just try to move forward," Jones said of last year's game. "I just try to make sure I wrap up every time, no matter if he's tight-roping the sideline, open field or whatever. I just want to make sure I wrap up the ball carrier."

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