In the offseason, Jones-Drew, along with former De La Salle teammates Demetrius Williams and Matt Gutierrez are teaming up with another former Spartan teammate, Nathan Kenion, to coach for Kenion Training, which has a number of East Bay and Sacramento area prospects on their 7v7 team.
Jones-Drew brought Kenion Training down to Los Angeles over the weekend to play in the Passing Down Best of the West and they visited USC and UCLA unofficially and were at the StubHub Center for the Bruins' Spring Game.
We caught up with Jones-Drew on Sunday about his signing with Oakland, his favorite memories of UCLA, his first season apart from Marcedes Lewis since 2002, UCLA's hiring of Kennedy Polamalu and much more.
Maurice, this offseason you signed to play for the Oakland Raiders and you're an East Bay native. How exciting is it for you to be finally be able to play close to home?
Its exciting, coming home every now and then was fun, but to be able to end my career in Oakland is something I dreamed about. I think everyone dreams about ending your career at home. That's the good part about it.
UCLA appears to be in good hands with Jim Mora. As a former player, what does it mean to you to see UCLA back as a nationally ranked team?
When I left (after the 2005 season), I tried to leave it in good hands, but we had some down years. To see them build it back up and see the way the kids are working, that's exciting. I think of the way Coach Mora and his staff are doing it and they're doing it the right way. The kids are having fun and working hard and that's what's important. I hope they just continue on.
The last time they won 10 games before last fall was your last year there in 2005 (10-2). What would you say are your favorite memories from playing at UCLA. A game or a play?
It wasn't really football or anything, it was hanging with my buddies, taking those road trips with the team. We would go certain places with the team and that was the best part about it. Some of those games, some of those wins, those were all from the hard work we did during the summer. You can play football anywhere, but to be able to play football with those guys, to be able to play football with that team, and be around those guys, that was the best part about it.
On the field, though, are you partial to the Cal game (in 2005), especially being from up near there?
That was a fun game and we did a good job against them. They tried to double team Marcedes and that opened running lanes for us. That year, on punt returns (when he led the nation in punt returns and was a First Team All-American return man), we were doing whatever we wanted. That wasn't me, that was the guys blocking for me. They did a great job in that aspect. People don't know the work that we put in on punt return, or the work we did on offense when we were number whatever in the country. We worked hard for that. That's what I cared about.
So you weren't surprised to see (former UCLA special teams coach) Brian Schneider have success in Seattle this year on special team?
Not at all. Or Tom Cable. When I found out both would be there a couple years ago, I knew that team would be in good hands. Even Pete Carroll and his defense. Having played under Gus Bradley for a year (the current Jags head coach and former DC under Carroll in Seattle), you could see why Seattle was such a dominant force.
You were close with Karl Dorrell, part of his first recruiting class at UCLA What do you think about him being back in the college game at Vanderbilt (where he's the new offensive coordinator)?
I want to see what he can do. See what kind of players he can bring in. That offense was pretty potent if you understand it. You can do a great job with it like we did my last year. If they can understand the offense, they'll be fine. He'll call great plays. It's exciting to see Coach Dorrell back in college again. He deserves to be a head coach again.
You've played with Marcedes Lewis since 2003, when you were a freshman at UCLA and you were both drafted by Jacksonville in the same year. How weird is it to know that for the first time in 12 years, you two won't be on the same team?
It's going to be different. There are some guys I have played with in Jacksonville that will be in Oakland. I talked to Marcedes today (Sunday) and it's the business part that no one understands. It's a tough situation, but we'll continue our friendship and both continue to play well so that we can play together again in the Pro Bowl.
You had the highest praise for Kennedy Polamalu when he was coaching you in Jacksonville and even said that you would send your kids to play for him wherever he was coaching, and that was when he had gone back to his alma mater, USC. Now he's at your alma mater, UCLA. What can those running backs expect to learn from Coach Polamalu?
They're going to be very versatile and they're going to learn to do everything. I think that is one thing that he taught me and I learned from him. He helped me be a versatile running back. Being able to catch the ball, block, run, return kicks, play great on special teams. I hope they continue to learn from him and stay positive. It will take time, but he's going to do some great things for our program. Just with the guys now. He's a hell of a recruiter and just a great, great guy. He's going to do some great things for us. He's always been a Bruin, even though he went to USC. But he's always been a Bruin, and that's all that matters.
You've hosted a radio show on Sirius XM and a lot of people think you're destined for television when your playing days are done. But here you are coaching a 7v7 team (Kenion Training) during the offseason. Is that something you can see yourself doing when you finish playing football?
I don't know what I'll do, but right now, I have the opportunity to work with kids and teach them. I have the opportunity to teach them how to be a professional. Not just in football, but a professional in life. A lot of us, growing up, we didn't have that right guy, but to teach these kids what it takes to get to the next level and to succeed at that level, is the part of it I enjoy. It takes time, it's our first year. We have a lot of talent but we're still learning. For me as a coach, I have a lot to work on, that's another aspect I'm learning, but I'm up for it, because it's fun to do. We'll see how it goes and where it takes me.
This summer, a movie about De La Salle is coming out (When the Game Stands Tall). Are you looking forward to seeing it and did they give you a cameo?
I have a little 20-second role in it, it's not much. I don't know if I'll see it. I went through the real thing. The real thing is something special that I got to be a part of and I don't want to mess it up. I'm just happy that they're getting the recognition that they deserve. We'll see how it goes. I hope they do a good job, and I know they'll do a great job because I saw them working on it. It's funny, the guy from The Shield (Michael Chiklis) is playing Coach (Terry) Eidson and the guy who played Jesus (Jim Cavieziel) is playing Coach Lad (Bob Ladouceur), so I think they'll do a great job.