"It feels good. I'm just glad I can contribute to the team this year."
It's been a long wait for the 2004 signee out of Harvey, La. A late-summer recruit that year, a knee problem meant sitting the first season as a redshirt before playing nine games as a '05 freshman, starting once. 2006 was frustrating as a trio of talented and more versatile tight ends ahead of him kept Jones from any playing time, and this junior year was going to follow the same script.
But unexpected opportunity came as the offensive staff, unhappy with spring results at fullback and needing a big, tough body able to move, remembered Jones. "Coach wanted me on the field and he found a way," Jones says. That place is between quarterback and halfback, where Jones was a surprisingly fast-fit.
"I'm going to try to be a back-type blocker. Coach wanted me back there to bring some hands to the backfield. And Coach sees a lot of things. I've got faith Coach Croom knows what he's doing, he sees the ability I can bring to the backfield. So, I'm back there!"
And loving it. Jones literally ‘stands out' back there as not too many 6-2, 275-pounders are able to force themselves into a backfielder's stance. Years practicing on the end of the blocking line are not that easy to un-learn, too. There's also some obvious technical differences between firing off the line and making contact instantly, to coming out of a fullback's set for a series of scripted steps aimed at a specific area and defender on the move himself. Jones says he's still learning the finer points as he heads out for another day's practicing.
"The biggest part for me is staying low when I come out of my stance. And using my hands more when I block. That's what me and coach are about to go over here on this sled for!"
The Bulldog staff is confident Jones can pick up the techniques to go with the physique. Not long into camp he was promoted to first fullback despite being hampered by a strained abdominal muscle that limited his contact work for a full week. The injury has not cost him any status though. Jones has been able to hold on to the top job ahead of Brandon Hart and Eric Hoskins. Barring relapse he will line up for the first offensive snap of the 2007 season next Thursday.
Oh, and he's healthy again. "I haven't had any problems for a week," he reports. "It feels good." What feels best is having a position and a role all to his own now. Though, Jones notes, fullback is not entirely new to him. "Actually I did play some tight end," he grins. "When I was nine years old! I didn't really do too much blocking, I did a whole lot of running back there."
Not that he is counting on a whole lot of totes in this system. Jones looks forward to blocking for his halfback comrades and keeping blitzers off Mike Henig…though he won't be shy to remind that he can catch a toss or two if the situation sets up so. Those years at tight end weren't a waste by any means, not if they prepared him to seize this opportunity.
"It made me feel good that Coach really wanted me to play and get me on the field. Now it's time for me to produce and help this team out."
And, to stay out of a certain someone's way. While it might make for fascinating physics to see Jones and Dixon throwing their combined 500 or so pounds at the same (defensive) point, the fullback would rather clear an opening then watch those '24' digits getting smaller into the downfield-distance. Or at least running into somebody's face-mask instead of his own back-side as still occasionally happens in preseason practicing.
"Coach tells me you move to slow," Jones smiles. "I think it's ‘Boobie' is just moving too fast!"