Prior to going to JMU, Jones coached the running backs and special teams for four years at the University of Cincinnati (1999-2002). During his stay, Jones' handiwork helped all-American place-kicker Jonathan Ruffin earn the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2000. During that same time, his punter, Adam Wulfeck, earned all-Conference USA honors.
He has also coached the linebackers at Tulane University in 1995-96, was the kicking game coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh in 1992, and had two stints of duty at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Between those two assignments in Tuscaloosa, Jones coached the tight ends (1983-85) and then the defensive line (1986-88) under former MSU assistant coach Bruce Arians when he was the head coach at Temple University from 1983-88. During his entire stay in Philadelphia, he also worked with the Owl special teams.
He worked one season with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League (1997) and has worked in the high school ranks.
What are your connections with Coach Croom?
"I first met Coach Croom when I was a freshman at Alabama in 1978. Coach Croom was coaching defensive ends at that time. My first year and a half at Alabama I was a defensive back. Then, my last year and a half I played running back. The scout team running backs got to go against Coach Croom everyday. So, I've seen Coach Croom as a player and I've worked with him as a graduate assistant in 1981 and 1982."
Why did you decide to join Coach Croom's staff?
"The biggest thing, from my standpoint, is I've seen him on the field and how he handles his players. And I liked that. I've worked along side of him as a graduate assistant and I knew what he stood for as a person. I've known him as a player, a coach and a friend. He is the same guy as you see on the field. I always thought he was fair, never mistreated us as players, but, yet, also demanded a level of excellence in the drills you did with him or in anything that you dealt with him in."
Was having a chance to coach in the SEC a factor in your decision to sign on with Coach Croom?
"I guess I'm different. I've been in this business long enough to be hired and fired a bunch of times. I want to coach. It doesn't matter at what level. I've coached high school ball for four years in three different states, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana. If I wasn't coaching at Mississippi State, I would be coaching somewhere. It doesn't matter at what level. I'm not attracted to the stature of a conference. Obviously, it's an honor to coach in the SEC and I've coached in it before when I coaches with Gene Stallings at Alabama, but I don't ever get caught up in where I'm coaching. I went from being fired at Tulane to coaching in the Canadian Football League. You don't get any further in coaching football than that. I just really enjoy coaching and working with players."
Do you know much about Mississippi State?
"I grew up 45 minutes away from here (in Aliceville, Alabama). I even bought school clothes in Columbus (Mississippi) at Egger's and J.C. Penney's. My family still lives in Aliceville. I also had a third cousin who was a kicker here. My brother also tried to come on here as a player coming out of school. So, I'm very familiar with Mississippi State. I truly consider it an honor to be a football coach at Mississippi State and work with Sylvester Croom."
What are the talents that you bring to this staff?
"I would like to think that he saw a work ethic in me as a player that carried over to when I was a graduate assistant. Now, 24 years later I'm still in this profession because of the values and work ethic that I showed back then.
"I don't know if Sylvester will even remember this. He and I were sitting at the Indianapolis (NFL) Combine - I always go to the NFL combine - about 7 or 8 years ago and we started talking about punt protection the way we used to do it at Alabama. I think that (what I said that) day let him know that this guy he knew as a player at Alabama knew what he was talking about as a coach."
I've read a lot about you and the thing that stands out about you is how good of a special teams coach you appear to be.
"I owe another Mississippi State alumnus Paul Davis. Paul Davis taught me how to coach punters and kickers. In 1983 I went to Temple with Bruce Arians after Coach Bryant retired. And obviously everybody knows Alabama had great special teams through the years because that was a big emphasis and Jack Rutledge and Sam Bailey before him. But the biggest thing was Paul Davis who told Bruce when we got to Temple that this is something this guy could excel at. Bruce gave me the opportunity to coach placekickers. I had a set of brothers, Bobby and Billy Wright, that were my first guys. They still hold quite a few records there. When Paul retired in 1985, Bruce was looking to put somebody in charge of special teams, so in 1985 I started taking it over. And in 1986 I became special teams coordinator."
From that beginning, you have really become very good at it.
"I watch a lot of good players. I am a guy who critiques what I watch. I learn from watching players. David Palmer was a great punt returner at Alabama. He wasn't the best punt returner that I ever had. The best one that I ever had was a guy that I had at Temple that is a dentist now. But I watched him learn how to catch the football. I watched a great punter at Temple.
"The thing is I enjoy it and it is a passion with me. I try to coach special teams the way I am going to coach linebackers here. I try to coach it like I coach everything else. I don't coach a kicker and punter with kid gloves."
As a special teams coach, is having a knack for knowing where a player fits on the special teams something that you have?
"Oh yeah, you have to learn to put certain guys by certain guys. That is something that the Good Lord may have blessed me with. First of all, special teams is desire. You have to have that intangible. Second, speed helps. Then, you have to have the other tangibles, such as can they tackle, block, things like that."
Before the spring starts, will you watch game film and decide from that who you want on your special teams?
"Traditionally, I don't do that. I don't want to pre-judge a kid. I don't like to let other people tell me who can play from the previous team. I want to give everybody a fair chance. I like to find that out who I want through various drills. Usually, special teams is a nucleus of 15 to 25 players. Those players can come from starters to non-scholarship players."
What aspects of the special teams do you work on during spring practice.
"As a rule of thumb, you try to spend some time on special teams in spring training to develop that attitude, that mentality. Obviously, you have to spend a lot of time with your protection units, which is first and foremost."
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