Fuquay-Varina's Sam Jones might be the state's most physical-imposing football prospect and is regarded as one of North Carolina's top players. Jones isn't thinking about any of that right now. He is just hoping his senior season doesn't start out like his junior year did.
"Last year, about this time actually, the first few days we started hitting, I was running the ball and one of my teammates fell on my ankle," Jones told Pack Pride. "I had a real high sprain, and I was out about three weeks. I missed the scrimmage and our first two games, and I think that kind of set me back a little for the season.
"That was a rough time for me, missing the beginning of the season. Now I'm back healthy, I'm bigger, and I'm ready to start making plays."
Jones has everything college coaches look for in a lineman prospect. Standing a massive 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds with a freakish wingspan and outstanding agility, he should impact both lines for the Bengals.
However, his most impressive trait could be his work ethic. Fuquay's varsity practice doesn't begin until 9:30 each morning, and a look around at that time reveals a few stragglers trying to make it out of the fieldhouse before head coach David Riggs blows his whistle.
You might think Jones, the team's lone senior Division I prospect, would be inclined to arrive right at the start of practice, but he holds his own workout each morning prior to the team's scheduled practice.
"I've been trying to get out here everyday at 7:00 to start doing my own workouts," said Jones. "I've been doing a lot of conditioning drills and some footwork drills to keep improving my foot speed. This season is what I've been training for all summer.
|"I want to try and get as big as I can and keep my speed and quickness."|
"My coaches are counting on me to go both ways this year, I'm going to be playing right tackle and defensive tackle. That's why I've been working so hard, plus I want to get bigger and faster for when I go up to State."
Jones, who verbaled to NC State following a spring unofficial visit with his father, isn't content. Sure, he's big, but he can get bigger. He's fast for his size, but he can get even faster.
"That's what I'm trying to do before I leave for State," he said. "I want to try and get as big as I can and keep my speed and quickness. I want to be around 285 pounds before I get to State, but I think I could get up to 300 pounds.
"I think I can stay at defensive end at 300 pounds because I've been working on my speed and quickness. I'm going to play wherever they see me at. I'm going to play wherever State sees that I fit."
Coach Riggs admits that his star player is a work in progress because at just 16 years old, Jones is one of the youngest players on his squad. Physically and mentally, Jones still has a lot of maturing to do, and the head coach believes that development will continue to occur over time.
"He needs to be a little bit tougher, mentally and physically," said coach Riggs. "I think the injury last year put him three or four weeks behind. He's just got to be more aggressive.
"He has great size and great feet... those are his pluses. I'm looking forward to him being a lot more aggressive for us this year.
"I think the thing is he's still immature age-wise. He's just 16 years old as a senior and won't be 17 until October. He will be a 17-year old college freshman. He's maybe a year or two away as far as aggressiveness right there, and that's understandable. I think that is just the reality."
Once Jones reaches his potential, how good can he be?
"Well, he's pretty good right now," said coach Riggs with a smile. "In a couple of years you are going to have a man on your hands. There's no telling how big he is going to get."
Check back tomorrow for Part II of Pack Pride's exclusive feature on NC State defensive end commitment Sam Jones ...