Inside the Class of '06: Eddie Jones

The 9th in a daily series of 25 interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '06: Signee Eddie Jones.

Eddie Jones
Defensive end
Kilgore High School
NR: 1 SR: 4 Star Rating: *****

An Inside Texas conversation with Kilgore head coach Mike Vallery on Eddie Jones:

[Note from Clendon: I talked to Coach Vallery about Eddie Jones directly after talking to him about Britt Mitchell. In our conversation, I transitioned from Britt Mitchell to Eddie Jones, but before I could ask a question, Coach Vallery jumped in and started talking about Jones, in a very heart-felt way, and he didn't stop for several minutes. For readability's sake, I've put paragraph breaks into his answer, but as you'll see below, Coach Vallery believes Eddie Jones is both a special football player, but more so a special person.]

IT: With Eddie Jones, let's start with...

Vallery: Eddie Jones, when he came in here as a freshman, played freshman football for us -- and as a sophomore we moved him right with us on the varsity football team because it was easy to see he had it when he walked in -- most kids as freshmen are real immature and it takes 'em a while to grow up. Eddie walked in as a serious and mature young man that wants to be good about everything that he does.

Eddie goes out and works every day. The game of football, yes, he has fun with it and loves it, but he goes out there and works at it every day. There's not a day he walks on the football field to goof around. He walks out there to get better. He's done that way for the four years that we've had him here and that's what's so much fun about a young man like (Eddie Jones).

I remember last year, when we were making our state championship run. It was our 14th game of the season, and it had been raining that week and it was wet outside, and our game field is a synthetic grass field, but I made the decision that I thought we could get a practice in (at our practice field). It wouldn't be under ideal conditions but it was better than busing over to the game field and busing back. That day, after we finished practicing, we were walking in, and ya know, during the 14th game of the season, your kids are pretty wore down and all they want to do is be ready to play on Friday. Practice has gotten a little old by that time. But we're walking off the field that day, and Eddie Jones stops me as we're coming off the practice field and says, Tomorrow, can we go to the game field because I couldn't get the work in today on the slippery field to try to be as good as I can be. I came in and told my coaches that he was worried about it because he couldn't get the work in he needed to that day, couldn't get the traction to work his technique the way he needed to, and that you wish that's the way every one of your kids were.

This year, there was a game in the playoffs, he had a little injury during the week, a little bruised up, and I held him out of the contact stuff through the week so he would be ready to play on Friday night. On game day in here, I'm watching him and I could see something was wrong with him, so I just went over and asked a question, Eddie, is there anything wrong? And he told me, Coach, I'll tell you about it. And he came into my office and he said, Coach, I just don't feel right because during the week, by not being able to practice like I normally practice, I haven't got to work my techniques and stuff, and I don't feel real good about it. That's when I explained to him, Son, you've been a starter for us for three years. You know everything we're doing. The main thing is to be healthy Friday night where you can play at your top ability, to try to ease his mind. But that's the kind of player he is.

He knows that preparation makes the player. And he wants to be prepared when he steps on the field, every time he steps out there he wants to be prepared. He's going to make The University of Texas a great football player because he's going to work to be the best prepared player he can be when he steps on the field.

You don't get many kids like Eddie Jones. Eddie Jones is a special young man. He's made everybody's all-American team and I guarantee you if they gave an All-American kid, he'd make everybody's All-American team as a person, not only as a football player.

One of the statements I always say about Eddie, you're getting a great football player out of him at The University of Texas, but you're probably getting a better person than football player, and he's a dadgum good football player. That's not taking away from his football abilities, it's just adding to his personal traits that's he a great person.

His mother and daddy have done a great job of raising him. Ya know, he works in the classroom. He's friendly to everybody. There's no one in this town that doesn't like Eddie Jones and it's not just because of him winning football games, it's because of his personality.

I've never had a prouder moment than sitting down at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game and they take the field out there, the teammates and coaches have selected Eddie Jones as a captain of the All-American team. It took them not even a week to realize what we've been around for four years.

The first time I walked up on the Thursday of the All-American game, Todd Dodge walked up to me and said, Coach, not only is Eddie Jones a great football players, he's a greater person. And I said, Todd, you've found that out in a week's time and I've been saying that about him for four years now, and that's the kind of person he is. I can't say enough about him.

He's a pleasure every day he walks in and he's had some injuries through his career. As a freshman, playing basketball, he had kind of a freak deal on a knee where he had to have surgery. He rehabbed through that. His junior year, the start of his junior year, when he had surgery his freshman year they put screws in that knee to help that tendon hold it in place to repair. Well, we we're going into the third ball game of the state championship year, his junior year, and I watched him in practice and he was dragging that leg, the leg was bothering him. He never came out of practice. I pulled him over after practice, I take him to the trainer, and the trainer tells me, Coach I think one of those screws in there is backing out. So they take him down and they do the surgery to put the screw back in right, he's wanting to go that Friday night! We hold him out that Friday night, but he comes back that next week, and the first series of the game, he breaks his wrist. He goes to a doctor, one of the orthopedics, and they say they needed to do surgery, and Eddie Jones told them, No, you're not going to do surgery. Put me a cast on and I'm going to play the season. He played through the season, got that fixed after the season's over with.

Ya know, he's had some deals that he's worked right through. After this football season, he needed to have a little cartilage clean up, go in and scope it, and he told them to wait till after the Army game. He wanted to play in the All-American Bowl game. He comes back in the week after the Army game and does that, and the next day he's in here rehabbing. He could go out and play right now. He's a kid, everything hasn't been great for him, but he's worked through adversity and been a team leader. Everybody in this school looks up to him and everybody likes him. He's a special young man.

IT: He's obviously got some amazing characteristics. What is it that makes him so good at defensive end.

Vallery: I think physically, he's 6-3, 245 right now. He's going to be 260 or 270, but he can run. He's got explosion. He's got quickness. The game of football now has evolved into a lot of spread offenses throwing the football and he is what people look for at that next level in a rush-type end. You take a look at what everybody across the country is recruiting for those rush-type ends and right off the bat we knew that he was the type of player that you'd want at the next level to come off that edge because he has great technique, he has great speed and he has great explosion.

IT: A lot of times kids that have that great speed don't have great technique because they simply use their speed to blow by guys...

Vallery: Eddie would be the first one to tell you, my defensive line coach who is our defensive coordinator Mike Wood, does a great job of teaching technique. You'll have college coaches come in here and look at our kids who play on the front and one of the things they will tell you, you've got high school kids that play with great technique and use their hands well. And it's obvious to see that when you watch our kids up front play. They do a great job with technique, making the moves and using their hands and people see that on tape and say, Hey, these are things we usually have to try to get these kids taught how to do and he's already doing these things. I'm fortunate, I've got a great coaching staff, and Eddie Jones would be the first one to tell you that these guys have done a whole lot to develop his technique and his game, but at the same time he's the one that's got the natural ability and everything to work with. Oscar Giles, just as soon as he watched him, he said, This is a guy that we've got to have. He'll be one of those people that the Longhorn family will take in. He's ready to join that family down there.

IT: Does he have a signature move at DE?

Vallery: No, he uses all the moves, the swim move, the bull rush, the fake one way with a step and go the other way. Eddie's not only a great technician, he's a smart football player. That's like when I watched him in the All-American Bowl game. Right off the bat he's coming off against a quick tackle that was probably 6-8, 325, and a good one, and most of these defensive line guys in high school are not used to playing against these kind of guys. These are the kind of guys you play against at the next level. And I watched him on the first series, coming off thinking he could probably do some of those guys like he did the rest of the guys he played against in high school, but it didn't take him long to figure out, Start using your moves, use your head, and he started doing that, and that's when you started seeing him make plays.

IT: Everything we've heard from down in San Antonio, and we've even heard it from some of the other kids and coaches we've talked to over the last few days, is about how good he did. There was a substantial amount of sentiment that he was the outstanding player on the West squad...

Vallery: He's going to do good in football but at the same time what you're going to find out once he's down there, they're going to find out just what kind of person he is.

IT: You mentioned earlier that he is a natural leader...

Vallery: He's a leader. It's been that way ever since he's been here. The kids looked up to him. When I say a leader, Eddie's not an "I" guy, he's a "team" guy. Just as soon as he committed in as a Texas Longhorn, he's assumed that role as a team guy. Just like the other guys that have committed, when they would go down on visits together, they'd make sure they got together, they were already talking about their commitments as team members and that's a lot coming from Eddie because that's what Eddie believes in. Eddie doesn't believe in guys that aren't truly committed, and guys that are not carrying their load. Eddie wants everybody to be committed, carrying their load and everybody working together. A kid like him going into a program that believes that way, he'll help carry on those kind of thoughts with those team members down there. Some of those team members that are committed in already look to him as that guy because they communicate together, they're already talking together. When they make their official visits down there, they're already talking about their group coming in and they will be a group that will be a close-knit group because of people like Eddie Jones.

IT: Is he a guy that elevates the practice and the play of guys around him?

Vallery: I think he does because you can see him on the field, he goes to his other teammates, when he's got a teammate down and struggling a little bit, he's the first one going to 'em, and he goes to them and tries to pick them up. When things are not going right for him, it really hurts him, but at the same time, he worries about his teammates, he wants his teammates to play well because Eddie Jones is a smart enough young man to know that he's not going to step on the football field and win with just Eddie Jones. He's got to have football players and good people around him and he knows that. That's why he's going to be a success.

IT: Texas has had a recent history of playing young defensive ends early. Is Eddie ready to step in and contribute right away?

Vallery: Eddie would love to be stepping on the field when it comes time to play, but Eddie is smart enough to know that there's other kids there that are talented football players just like him and he's smart enough to know that but what I think that he will do, from his competitiveness of every day, he will help raise the level of everybody that's playing at defensive end because he's going to work hard at it every day. He's one of those guys that the coaches are going to love because he's going to be there giving you everything he's got every day when he steps on the field. I'm not saying the others don't, but that's the kind he's going to be and if there's others that are not that way, he's going to bring them to that level.

IT: What are the areas of Eddie’s game that he needs to improve upon to be successful in college?

Vallery: I think the biggest thing playing at that level, he's naturally going to get bigger. The thing that Eddie has done here at Kilgore High School, not only does he play football, when the football season is over with, he'll go over and play basketball. When basketball is over with, he plays on the baseball team. He loves every minute of all of it. He's like a kid in a candy store when he steps on the basketball court. He's the same way when he's on the baseball field. He just loves to compete and be a part of a team. I watched him in baseball last year. Yes, he started a lot of games for us -- he would be a DH for us, he would play in center field for us -- but at the same time, if he wasn't on the field playing, he's the team cheerleader over there with the rest of his baseball teammates, so it didn't make a difference if it's the game of football. It's a game and it's competition and he loves to compete and that's the way you like to see a kid. He knew that he was already committed to The University of Texas to play football, but hey, he put every effort out in the game of baseball every time he walked out there. That's the type of kid he is.

IT: And he's doing basketball right now?

Vallery: He was playing, but when he knew he was going to do the All-American game, he was going to go to that and then come back and have the floating cartilage in his knee taken care of, so no, he's not playing right now. Whenever he gets through rehabbing he'll probably go right on to baseball.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Eddie's ability as a football player?

Vallery: Every game with Eddie, he plays at that consistency and at that level every week out. He's athletic enough to make plays, he's athletic enough when something happens he can turn it into a play, he's athletic enough, if he knocks a fumble out, he can pick that son of a gun up and take it the distance. He's a player that every time that ball is snapped he's giving you what he's got. I'm not going to sit here and tell you Eddie doesn't make mistakes, but he wants to come in and he wants to get in on that tape and look and get better every time he steps on the field. He's a student of the game. He wants to get better every day.

Also see: ScoutTV: All-American Highlights

UT's Signing Day bio: A first-team prep Parade All-American, first-team USA Today All-American and EA Sports first-team All-America … played in the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Bowl … two-time first team all-state pick who finished his career with 310 tackles, 27 TFL, 28 sacks, 25 PBU, eight forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 30 pressures and a blocked punt which he returned for a TD … named first-team 4A all-state by The Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association as a senior … also earned district 17-4A MVP honors … 2005 all-East Texas Defensive MVP … named to Dave Campbell's Super Team first team in the preseason … had 95 tackles, 11 TFL, 11 sacks, six PBU, four forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 11 pressures and one blocked punt which he returned for a TD … helped Kilgore to an 11-2 record in 2005 … named first-team all-state by The Associated Press and Texas Sports Writers Association as a junior … named District 17-4A MVP … earned all-East Texas first-team honors … recorded 131 tackles, 10 TFL, 11 sacks, 11 PBU, one forced fumble and 15 pressures … helped Kilgore to the 2004 4A State Championship and a 16-0 record … had 11 tackles and two sacks in the title game win over Dallas Lincoln … named honorable mention all-state as a sophomore … earned all-East Texas first-team honors … tabbed 17-4A Defensive Newcomer of the Year … had 84 tackles, six TFL, six sacks, eight PBU, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four pressures … also played running back and linebacker as a freshman … also played basketball and baseball … played power forward on the basketball team as a freshman, junior and senior … was the designated hitter and played in the outfield on the baseball team as a sophomore, junior and senior … has spoken to children at local elementary and middles schools … enjoys video games … full name is Eddie Lewis Jones, Jr. … born on Jan. 11, 1988 in Henderson, Texas.

"I chose Texas for the family atmosphere. When I took my visit to Texas, I just liked the family atmosphere, and I had made up my mind that I wanted to be somewhere that was just like a family back home. Everything was impressive, the field, the football building, and the crowd when you come to watch a game, everybody is cheering so loud. I'm just glad to be coming to be with the fans, players and coaches."


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