Greg Jones Ready To Relocate In Tennessee

Mississippi isn't a state that you'd normally consider when making summer vacation plans, but it's the perfect getaway for a football player who lives in Arkansas and signed a scholarship with Tennessee.

UT signee Greg Jones of Jonesboro, Ark., just returned from a vacation to the Magnolia State where he used to live and still has family. He had been selected to play in the Arkansas High School All-Star Game last Friday, but decided to go on vacation instead. Part of the reason was a scheduling conflict for his father who is a truck driver. However, there was actually a more compelling reason for sending his regrets. You see, after enduring nearly five months of answering the same question, Jones decided it was better to skip the high-profile intrastate athletic affair.

"It stopped a lot and that's another reason I decided not to play in the all-star game," Jones explained. "It was in Fayetteville at Razorback Stadium and I didn't want to put myself in that kind of situation where I knew people were going to ask me: why I didn't go up there, and why I chose Tennessee."

In another week, when Jones leaves for Knoxville, he might have to field that question a few more times. Fortunately, it will come from people who were delighted by his decision as opposed to disappointed.

"There's no doubt that I'm happy with my decision," Jones said. "It's really exciting. I'm looking forward to going to Tennessee."

Razorback fans weren't the only ones disappointed by Jones' choice of UT. He also turned down offers from such prestigious gridiron programs as Nebraska, Michigan, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, all of whom loved the potential of a 6-6, 265-pound prospect who had enough mobility to play a stand-up inside linebacker in a 4-4 defense.

Jones recorded 106 tackles his junior year along with 12 sacks, an interception and four fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a 50-yard touchdown. In a single playoff game that season against Springdale, which would go on to win the Class-5A state title, Jones recorded 21 tackles with 14 solo stops.

As a senior, Jones again earned all-state honors posting 96 tackles, five sacks, two fumbles recoveries, three caused fumbles and four blocked passes in two fewer games. He also dominated the competition as an offensive tackle.

Jones was also a two-time all-state basketball player who skipped his senior season in order to concentrate on getting bigger and stronger for college football.

"I've been running and lifting and things like that," Jones said. "I think it's going really well. I've gained about 20 pounds on the bench press. I'm up to 315 and my squat has gone up tremendously from 420 to 530.

"I realize that I'm going to be behind a lot of the guys I'm going to be playing with and practicing against. I figured lower body strength is a whole lot more important than upper body strength."

Jones has picked up 10 pounds and now weighs 275. He qualified for the state track and field championships last month in the discus with a throw of 155 feet.

"I finished eighth in the discus," he said. "It was my first time to ever go to state. That was my biggest goal to go to the state championships."

Jones next major goal is to gain playing time as a true freshman at UT. He might get a look at defensive end or he could figure into the scheme at tackle. Eventually Jones, who runs a 4.85, may end up on the offensive line where his size, long arms and quick feet would prove major assets.

"My first year I'm just looking to be in the rotation," he said. "I want to get my stamina up and get in pretty good condition. I don't know if they want me at defensive end or defensive tackle. I think it all depends on how my body reacts to the things that I do. I would really like to get into the rotation the first year, but if I redshirt that's okay, too."

Hard work is a way of life for Jones who has held down a job at the local Sonic over the last two years while continuing to excel in the classroom and in athletic competition. He scored a 21 on his first attempt at the ACT and finished with a 3.1 grade point average. He plans to major in business management or marketing at UT.

Jones, who has requested No. 99, knows the competition for playing time will be intense at Tennessee and that he will have a lot to learn.

"In high school I played a lot of linebacker," he said. "I can come out of a three-point stance, but I have a feeling they're going to change my stance all around. If they feel it's the best thing for me to redshirt, I don't have a problem with that."

Vol fans won't have a problem with it either, especially since it will be a Big Orange redshirt instead of Razorback red.

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