Checking in at 6-foot-5 and 265-pounds, he was outstanding in one-on-one drills and flashed his above-average athleticism in testing.
"I really wasn't expecting all the attention to tell you the truth," Sam Jones told Pack Pride. "I've just been playing football, doing what I love. This past season I really didn't hear from anybody, and then after that Shrine Bowl combine, when I was in school I had a whole bunch of these colleges come in and buzz me out of class to say they are interested in me. It was eye-opening."
He backed up that showing a few weeks later when he attended the invite-only Shrine Bowl combine in Chapel Hill. Working exclusively at defensive end, Jones dominated blockers as he was arguably the most impressive defensive lineman in attendance. With coaches from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Clemson present at the combine, it is not surprising that all three turned up the heat on Jones.
"Tennessee started following me a lot closer after that combine and Clemson did too," he said. "[North] Carolina was extremely interested in me... they were on my hard, I get letters every single day, ever since I went to their camp last summer. Their coaches called and talked to me, and they mailed me a lot of stuff."
With several solid offers on the table, Jones surprised some when he ended his recruitment nearly before it started by verbaling to NC State following an unofficial visit with his father.
"It was an easy decision," said Jones. "It's close to home, and I liked that. It feels great to know a lot of schools out-of-state wanted me, but I'm staying close to home near my family.
"Plus, I love State. I've been a State fan for a couple of years now, and I really like the school. It's been a huge blessing... that's where I'm going to be."
The Wolfpack coaching staff played a pivotal role in the talented lineman's final decision. He developed a strong relationship with defensive line coach Todd Stroud and NC State head coach Chuck Amato.
|"The bar has been set, and it's right there daring other people to cross it."|
"Coach Stroud is a great guy... he's a real good guy," said Jones. "I went to State and looked around, and they showed me a whole new different world. He knows what he's doing, and I can't wait to play for him.
"Coach Amato... the first thing you notice is he has a real big chest. I had heard about it, but it really did catch me by surprise. He's a real good guy. I can't wait to play for him and coach Stroud."
"The bar has been set, and it's right there daring other people to cross it... to join them," said Jones. "I know that is where I'm going to be one day... the NFL, definitely.
"During this season and in the offseason I've just been working non-stop so that when I get to State I can impact and go from there."
With his family approving of his college choice, and a commitment in place, Jones turns his focus to his senior season and completing his academic requirements so that he can matriculate to NC State in 2007.
"My parents love it," he said. "I'm the first person in my family to get a scholarship and the first person that has really gone to college... a university. They want me to get my education and play football... just do what I love.
"It was important for me to commit early. It's different when you have colleges buzzing you out of class continuously. It's hard to keep focus because you keep thinking about what you're going to do. Now I can just focus on what I need to do with my schoolwork and get it done because I know where I'm going when I graduate.
"I'm done. I'm concentrating on my academics and just trying to get bigger. There isn't any reason for me to take anymore visits."
Not including the twenty-five minute drive over to NC State, of course.
"Definitely," Jones said, laughing. "I'm going to try and come to all the State home games. I will be there."