It's been a difficult stretch for the redshirt freshman leading to this point. After battling injuries in his junior season of high school, NU kept with Jones' recruitment and landed someone who looks like an integral part of this team's future.
Now an exciting and athletic backup, Jones hauled in an interception and deflected passes throughout drills earlier this week. It's all coming together.
"During our scrimmage in Kenosha, I dropped a wide-open pick-six so that was a little bit of redemption for me," Jones said. "It felt really nice, especially with guys giving me crap for it."
This spring, Jones earned recognition as one of NU's surprise players. He finally looked comfortable with the linebacker role and with Mike Hankwitz's schemes. This resulted from a productive redshirt season, a hallmark of this NU program.
"I've gotten a lot stronger and I'm also more comfortable being a linebacker," he said. "I understand the defense a lot better.
Linebackers coach Randy Bates presides over an excellent unit—perhaps the best position group this fall. Fans can look at proven standouts Damien Proby and Chi Chi Ariguzo, as well as the stiff competition between Drew Smith and Collin Ellis for the third starting role.
After that, though, there's room for significant optimism. The backup group has demonstrated passion and playmaking ability, and Jones and Jaylen Prater appear capable of seizing starters' roles for future seasons.
For now, Jones wants to crack the two-deep (he should, in my opinion) and contribute to the special teams unit. Jones is patient enough to understand the value of the process; he can leave an impact even without the starter's tag.
"[Ellis and Smith] are fighting amongst themselves for a starting spot, and I'm pushing them to do better," Jones said. "Even with the competition, we're also brothers and push each other."
From linebacker to safety. From redshirt to contributor. We don't know the next step for Joseph Jones, but at this pace, it's bound to be good.