"I have just been taking care of my body," Dontea Jones said. "I have been getting my shoulder right and then dropping all of this weight. I am a lot stronger now and I am just trying to take care of myself from a physical standpoint.:
Jones was considered the top wide receiver prospect in the state of Mississippi during his senior season at Louisville. After graduation, Jones packed on some pounds and outgrew his projected position. The personable Jones even played some at defensive end during his time at prep school. There was even some talk about Jones growing into an offensive tackle.
With a year in the Mississippi State strength and conditioning program under his belt, Jones is down to fighting weight and preparing to make his mark as a tight end.
"I am 6-4, 235 now," Jones said with a smile. "This is a pretty comfortable weight for me, but I will probably try to gain another five pounds or so before the season. I would like to get a little more muscle on me. I know these D ends in the SEC are going to be pretty rough to play against."
Getting up to snuff to compete in America's toughest league is a chore for any player. Jones reports that the benefit of the redshirt year allowed him to heal, get in peak condition and prepare for what lies ahead.
"It's really about how fast the game moves," Jones said. "You have some linebackers out there that are really defensive backs. Going up against them is really on a totally different level that I was used to. I have been able to get adjusted to it a little bit."
Jones is getting to know his new position coach, D.J. Looney. The talented freshman reports that the tight ends room is adjusting well to a new way of doing things.
"Coach from the meeting room to the field is a big jump," Jones said. "He is real playful in the meeting room. He makes sure everything is broken down. He makes sure we ask questions. When we get on the field, he is balls to the wall. We have to go strong, hard, physical. Speed is all he preaches. He comes at us hard and makes sure we do what we need to do."
A pair of Bulldog tight ends have done their part to help Jones get used to the demands of being a student athlete in the Southeastern Conference. The Winston County native reports that he has had some solid mentors.
"Justin (Johnson) and Farrod (Green) have helped me," Jones said. "Just watching them my redshirt year and watching them play (helped). We are all the same age and were supposed to come in at the same time. Watching how they adjusted and how they have taken the process and took it and ran with it is confidence for me."
Coach Dan Mullen has said throughout the spring that he has high expectations for the tight end grouping. Jones is hopeful that he can live up this coaches expectations and help his team be successful.
"We have so many tight ends and we are so young that the next step is honestly to get everybody on the field," Jones said. "We want to be able to rotate, so nobody really gets tired. We are all learning the process and learning the plays. We just have to make sure that everything stays on track.
"We are big and athletic. We can catch and run. That puts the offense in a better position and gives us more threats on the field."
Jones is working this spring to be a more well rounded player. A pass catcher by trade, Jones is looking to sharpen the other skills required to be an every down tight end in the Mississippi State offense.
"I am working on learning all of the plays and run blocking," Jones said. "It is a transition from wide receiver to tight end. I have been blocking defensive backs my whole life. Now I am in the trenches, I'm blocking defensive ends and linebackers at 235. It's pretty rough, but I am getting the technique down. I am just trying to keep moving forward and making progress."
Growing up thirty miles away from Davis Wade Stadium, Jones has spent many days daydreaming about what it would be like to take the field as a Mississippi State Bulldog. That dream will soon become a reality as the team takes the field for the Maroon and White game next month.
"It took a lot to get here," Jones said. "From graduating high school and then having to go 12 hours from home, that process taught me how to be a better man. I learned how to put my foot down and my head down and just go. I had to keep pushing.
"This game is going to mean a lot to me. My family is going to come. Everybody is coming. It's a blessing to be here. I finally made it. I went through my first year. I feel good about my body, so it's been pretty good. It's a blessing."