Anyone questioning Mike Jones' commitment in preparing himself for the NFL Draft need look no further than his turning down a trip to Hawaii for the Hula Bowl. He decided to focus on specialized workouts back on the mainland.
After the Alamo Bowl, Jones spent a couple of days at his home in suburban Chicago before leaving for Florida to work out. He went to the Sunshine State to avoid distractions back around the neighborhood.
When Iowa began classes towards the end of January, Jones returned to Iowa City to work out with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle. He then participated in the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis and Iowa's pro day.
Through it all, Jones has marched along with a calculated approach. He scored a 28 on the Wonderlic test through extreme preparation.
"As soon as a math question came up, I skipped it," Jones said. "I'm not good at math, and with only 12 minutes to do the test, I wanted to maximize my time."
Jones has been preparing for the world's ultimate football league for a long time. He's always been big and regarded as a strong football player. He earned USA Today Parade Magazine and CNN-SI first-team prep all-American as a senior and started as a true freshman at Iowa.
Being under the spotlight for a long time as made the pressure of preparing for the NFL a bit easier for Jones than other players.
"I don't think there is as much immediate pressure as there was when I started as a freshman," Jones said. "But I feel like I've been able to focus on my training and preparations without distraction."
Starting at a Big Ten university for four years certainly attracts attention from professional scouts. He also played both tackle and guard throughout his college career.
"There's no doubt that the versatility thing is helping me," the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Jones said. "I think my first look is going to be at guard, but I feel like I can kick out to right tackle."
Jones has impressed scouts with his physical style of play and his run blocking. He also has avoided injuries and bad character issues.
They do question Jones' athletic ability. His 5.3-second, 40-yard dash time doesn't impress. But Jones put up strong numbers in the 10-yard dash, speed drills and recorded a 30-inch vertical leap.
"I think they can see on tape that I can play," Jones said. "My 40 isn't great, but the 10-yard dash is more important for linemen. I'm quicker than I am fast."
Jones feels plenty of teams are interested in his services. A handful of clubs have come to Iowa City to work him out individually since pro day.
"Other teams have called and asked who else in interested," Jones said. "They're trying to get a feel for where they can get me. I just tell them everybody likes me and everybody is interested. They're being secretive with me and I'm doing the same with them."
Jones has been hearing from some teams more than others, but he's unable to gauge where he might go in the draft. Several of the internet draft sites have ranked Jones among the top 10-15 guards in the process. Scout.com placed him at 14, while nfldraftcountdown.com has him at 10.
"It really is a toss-up," Jones said.
Jones committed to Iowa ahead of other power schools in order to play for Kirk Ferentz, who is seen as one of the premier molders of offensive line talent. The coach has come through for his pupil.
"You can just tell the respect that these NFL coaches have for Coach Ferentz and the Iowa program," Jones said. "In all of my individual workouts and at pro day, that was mentioned."
Jones plans on graduating in four years with a diploma this May in Health and Sports Studies.
"I'm pretty proud of that," Jones said. "That's a big part of this program. Now, I plan on going to the NFL and making the Hawkeyes proud."
Jones will head back to Chicago land for this weekend's draft to spend it with family and friends.
"I don't have any parties or any big plans," Jones said. "I just want to relax during the draft and wait to see what happens."