Top JUCO CB talks about recruiting and leaders

It wasn't supposed to work out like this for Andre Jones. He was already at division one and then had to make a difficult choice to go across country to get back into school. Faith and a positive attitude though have seen Jones through the tough times and have moved him right into the good times. Jones may very well be the top junior college player in the country and while recruiting is always there for him the season has got his full attention.

The hype surrounding Andre Jones from Fresno (Calif.) City College is well-deserved. The potential and athleticism is there for a 6-foot and 195 pound defensive back, but it's really his play last year that catches your eye.

"I had a great season last year," Jones said. "I think that I finished with 52 tackles and 11 interceptions. I was trying to lock everything down this past season."

Last year Jones found himself manning half the field at Fresno C.C. with Aaron Miller, a highly touted defensive back out of high school. The opportunity to play with someone like Aaron was something that was really special for Jones.

"That was the most fun I have ever had in my life. We both played with energy, we fed off of it. We had this connection on the field and off the field. He was locking that side of the field and I was locking it down on the other. We made it to one game from the championship game last year."

The road from Jones' high school in Florida, Choctawhatchee High School, to Fresno includes a stop for division one football in Kentucky. Jones would have played a key role at Kentucky as a true freshman, but an injury followed by surgery quickly ended that. The time off led to Jones straying from his studies as well and looking for a second chance.

"I bounced back from Kentucky. I played there as a true freshman, but I had to take a medical redshirt because I had some shin splint problems. They put a rod in my shin after they found a stress fracture in my shin. I came back about 10 times better than when I was before the surgery, but in the time that I had off and had to rehab; I fell off my grades and lost my scholarship. I was disappointed about that and I still think about it."

"I was given a second chance. I knew that if I wanted this dream to happen I had to my thing in the classroom. My coach at Kentucky, thank God for him, because if it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't have taken the junior college route. I never thought about that. He knew of the junior college out there and I thought about how far it was, spoke to my mom about it and we prayed about it. California was kind of far away from home. After I spoke to my mom we said it didn't matter where I go it only matters if I make it. That's how I found Fresno City College and it turned out to be the best decision of my life."

Jones has rolled a negative of losing that division one ride and has moved into being one of the most sought after junior college players in the country. Not only are people interested in just having him on his team, but Jones is in a position to make the transfer mid-year and participate in spring ball at a four-year school.

"After my medical redshirt and playing last year, I will play this year and have three to play two. I will be ready to go after the season and transfer in the spring. That is the plan. I am trying to get out of here."

Recruiting has started over for Jones who is holding offers from some of the top programs in the nation, including one from the back to back national champions, USC.

"Wow, I have one from USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Nebraska, Utah, Kansas State just offered the other day and Arkansas. Things are still going. I am focusing on the season. Everyone is asking me where I am going and I have to tell them that I am not quite sure right now. They're all good schools, but I am just focused on this season. I don't want to go into the season thinking that I don't need to play well because I have offers. We are going to have a great team and I need to stay focused. I need to get the younger guys under me to get focused. We want to win a championship."

The offer to Jones could be summed up in one word: special. It wasn't just how good they are last season, but it was getting to meet head coach Pete Carroll and the realization that he is close to getting back into division one football.

"Oh man, it was overwhelming to me. To be wanted by anyone is special, but USC? The number one school in the nation to offer you a scholarship? Not too many people can say that. How many people have Pete Carroll come down to speak to you? I lost it. It motivated me. I was like 'hey, everything is falling into place Andre, handle your business'. I don't want to get complacent. I am still working hard. There is another guy out there working to get right here."

While the list of schools to offer Jones will only grow, three schools out of the current list are standing out. "The schools that are really standing out to me right now are USC, Nebraska, and Utah. Those are really standing out to me right now."

Jones had this to say about Utah, "I always liked going to a school that was up and coming. They are making big moves. They're bringing in good athletes. I would love to be part of that team. They seem excited about me. It's all a business and people will tell you what you want to hear, but when you talk to them on another level and I built a relationship there."

When it comes to Nebraska it is the building of a once great program and his recruiting coach that make them stand out. "I speak to Nebraska and Coach Blake like every week. I know that they are making big moves and they are up and coming. I want to be a big asset to that team that helps boost that defense to the next level. I want to be that type of player. I remember some years back when Nebraska was just dominating. They are making moves and getting ready to do that again. I am interested in that."

Jones really just loves everything about USC. "The thing about USC is I just love everything about them. They take care of business and they win. No matter what. I have seen their workouts and I know that they do. These are guys that work hard at what they do. Everyone is getting good recruiting classes. Everyone at the division one level is good. At USC they have athletes, but they work those athletes. Nowadays you can't just be an athlete you have to be more than an athlete. You have to be smart on the field, do the right thing off the field and I see that in USC. I love that about the school."

What Jones is thinking about the most right now is what type of situation does he want to be in when he joins a college team? Does he want to help defend the national title that was earned the year before? Or, does he want to be part of a team ready to make that next step and make a name for themselves?

"That is kind of the tough part. That is the part that I have been thinking about. I have been kind of thinking about seeing myself on a team that is up and coming. That team could possibly make history. Anyone would love to be part of that; changing history and changing the system and winning the national championship. That right there would feel so great to me."

Jones knows what he is looking for though when it comes to picking out that school. "I am just looking for the love at the school. Anywhere that I am respected. Academics has to be first. I am looking for the love from the school, the coaches and the players. I am not really picky. I have been at this level before. It's really on how you make it anyway at whatever school you go to. If you go there and mess around then that is what you are going to get out of it. If you go there and handle your business you are going to get positive out of it."

Up to this point, Jones has only made one official visit plan and that will put him in Lincoln in October. He is looking for a family environment when he goes to make that visit, but at Nebraska he has already felt that to some extent.

"I have one so far and that is to Nebraska for October 8. That is for the Texas Tech game I think. It feels like I have known Coach Blake forever. He feels like part of my family. His conversations with me I have built up a relationship with him. It just seems like I have known him forever. We just never talk about football. We see how eachother is doing and see how life is treating us. I really have fun talking to him. He's an unbelievable guy."

As for right now, the season has Jones full attention. The dream of getting back to division one football is divided by a season that he cares equally for. He is counting down the days to the first practice and his first game. "We start practice on August 15. That is when we start pads. Our first game is September 3. I am getting ready to make it happen."

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