Chris Jones Convinced He Made Right Choice

Signing day is always unpredictable. One school's loss may be another's gain. Illinois was on the winning end of one of those battles as it scored an impact defensive tackle out of Jacksonville.

Chris Jones, a powerful defensive tackle out of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida, first became known to Illinois fans in the week approaching national signing day. To their pleasant surprise, the Illini added a player who thrives on punishing an offense.

"I'm physical. I don't care. I'm coming at you. I'm going to ball no matter who we play. I'm trying to be around the ball all night."

Jones explains that his eventual destination had to be about more than football. He really had the big picture in mind and wants to develop as a player, a student, and a person. He enjoyed the recruiting process.

"It was fun. I had fun with it. Everything was ok. I just had to decide who was really going to help me as far as my education and get me situated. Even if the pros don't work out, I wanted to go somewhere that would make me a better man."

Jones played both ways for Raines, at both left tackle and defensive tackle. He could easily be a force on offense, but his home will be on the defensive side of the ball at Illinois.

"I started at left tackle at every game. I did my thing on the d-line though. I don't really focus on exact stats, but I had great numbers."

One of the people Jones looked to specifically was head coach Ron Zook. Jones thinks of Zook not only as a developer of talent, but as a person who can help him grow both on and off the field.

"With Coach Zook, I feel like I can grow into a sensible man up there with great character."

Though Illinois fans might just now be hearing about Jones, Illinois has been after the Jacksonville standout for a long time.

"Ever since the end of my sophomore year, Illinois came to my school to see other people. That's how it started. With Isaiah Stallings, he and I decided four years ago that we were both going to go to school together."

The coach who came to see the Raines duo quite often was linebacker coach Dan Disch, who has strong ties to the Jacksonville area.

"Coach Disch recruited me. Coach Disch felt like a coach/best friend/father. He's a wonderful person. Coach came to see me a few times."

That goal seemed to be in jeopardy just a week ago when Jones gave his pledge to North Carolina State, but he had a change of heart that led him to the Midwest.

"Honestly, it was a mistake. I really wasn't supposed to commit. I wanted to go there, take the visit and enjoy it. I got all that situated and talked to their coaches. No disrespect to them or their coaches, but I'm going where I need to be at, and that's Illinois."

Jones took the plunge and ventured to Illinois on the final weekend before signing day. That decision was something he won't regret.

"The visit was wonderful. I spent a lot of time with Akeem Spence. He introduced me to everything I needed to know. We talked football, went out, had fun. I got to check out the campus and hear about the academics.

"Also I got introduced to a lot of the team. I met a majority of them. I'm looking forward to getting up there this summer and working hard and then playing as a true freshman."

Physically, Jones is well prepared for the college level. He has great size and speed. His physical style will be a force to be reckoned with sooner rather than later.

"I need to learn the playbook and stay physical. I'm 6'-5," 310. I run a legit 4.9 (40 yard dash). I definitely want to pick up where Corey (Liuget) left off."

On Wednesday Jones made it official, signing with Illinois and joining his high school teammate Stallings in accomplishing their goal. Stallings will enroll next January.

"Man it felt great. I'm trying to be an All-American like Akeem as a freshman and go on to bigger and better things. I really look up to Akeem. Akeem and I can really be big on that d-line."

As for now, Jones aims to take care of business and ready himself for a bright future at Illinois.


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