Jones Works To Excel, Lead In 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Josh Jones was not happy with the way he played last season and he has taken initiative so he excels in 2016.

Sometimes the best way to perform and lead is to admit you previously have not been doing what it takes.

Redshirt junior Josh Jones worked manically in the offseason to improve all aspects of his game and, perhaps most importantly, show he can be a leader in the defensive backfield following the graduations of Juston Burris and Hakim Jones. The impetus to reach a new level came from within.

Jones approached NC State head coach Dave Doeren for a candid conversation following last season.

"Last year really wasn't a good year for me and I take ownership of that," Jones said. "It was on me, so after the season it wasn't about getting better now and not waiting to get better. I wasn't waiting for anybody to come to me or no coaches to come to me and say do this or do that. I knew everything I needed to work on. I am still working on it to get better.

The effort Jones has put forth since last season is drawing waves from coaches and teammates. For Doeren, it was the accountability over what happened last season that stood out initially.

"The good thing about him is he brought it up before I did," Doeren said. "He was disappointed. His maturity level from last year to this year is. I don't know if you'd say 180 degrees but it's close. He's grown up a lot. I think he was humbled. A lot of guys who play like he did as a freshman, he was recognized as a freshman All-American that year, they think it's going to be easy the next year.  It's not.  You have to earn it every year."

The struggles last season, along with the loss of Burris and Hakim Jones heading into 2016, also showed Jones the importance of leadership. It is a role that he plans to take seriously both in the defensive backfield and to the remainder of the team by example.

I am going into my redshirt-junior year, so I have been playing in this system for two years," Jones said. "Having the most snaps in that room is huge. Being able to take ownership as an older guy is very important.

"Hakim and Juston are gone -- both were my roommates. Those guys were huge for us...Hakim and Juston kind of led by example and that's how I want to do."

Doeren agrees with the need of leadership in the defensive backfield.

"Anytime you're a safety, you're in that position in being vocal," Doeren said. "It doesn't mean in front of the team, but when you're out there, your half of the field, you're the safety.

"He's been healthy, he's been able to stay in it. He's done a great job academically, he hasn't had a lot of stress on himself off the field because he's handled his business."

And for Jones, handling his business is not just a trend but is now a lifestyle.

"You can't get anywhere in this world without working," Jones said. "If you don't work, you don't produce."

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