Jones excited for pro day

Former Wisconsin football player has been working out with his old teammates to prep for NFL Draft

Darius Jones visited Camp Randall Stadium for one gameday last fall. Once was enough.

"I went to one game but that was it," Jones said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "That was pretty hard."

Jones, a former starting defensive lineman with the University of Wisconsin football team, was supposed to be a senior last fall. Expected to be a top reserve in 2004, Jones was supposed to be playing on that field, in the Badgers' win over Penn State that he was watching from Camp Randall's stands.

But Jones, a former prep All-American from Beloit (Wis.) Memorial High School, who struggled with off-the-field issues in his time in Madison, did not have his scholarship renewed after the spring semester concluded last May.

He was academically ineligible and the Badgers were not going to give him the summer to sort out his grades.

"I didn't end up playing because Coach [Barry] Alvarez was cracking down with the people not being eligible by the [end of] spring semester," Jones said. "So he said anybody that wasn't eligible by the spring semester, he wasn't going to renew their scholarship and not pay for their summer school.

"I was on the bubble. I was not eligible after spring and usually they let us go to summer school and pay for our summer school to let us get eligible by fall. But I guess he wanted to really crack down on that and I guess [I] was set [as] an example."

Jones still attended classes at UW-Madison during the fall semester and, despite how difficult it was to watch a game in person, he said he does not have any grievance with the university.

Though he did not close out his college career at UW as he would have liked, Jones re-joined his former teammates in January, working out with UW strength and conditioning coach John Dettmann in preparation for April's NFL Draft.

Wednesday, Jones and 17 other Badgers will take part in Wisconsin's pro day, running, lifting and jumping for what will likely be a full ensemble of professional scouts.

"Just because I was out of football here doesn't mean that I was going to stop playing," Jones said. "I knew that I still had it and have what it takes to make it to the next level. I just keep on working hard, and progress through things and hopefully things will fall into the right place."

Jones started 11 games his junior year, but he missed the Badgers' bowl game and the team's subsequent spring workouts due to a knee injury. (Last summer, Jones' mother, Helene, and his former position coach, John Palermo, cited the knee as the primary reason Jones was not played football last fall. Jones did not mention the knee Tuesday.)

So he had not played football in 14 months before he put on the pads for the Las Vegas All-American Classic, a senior all-star game, in January.

"I thought I was going to be a little rusty going out there, but once I got out there it was just like riding a bike," Jones said. "Once you know how to ride a bike, you know, you never forget. It was like I really didn't miss a step at all. I was out there competing real well."

Jones said he needs 14 credits to complete his degree but he is not enrolled in classes this semester, choosing instead to focus on reaching the NFL. He likes his chances.

"It's real optimistic," Jones said. "Some people were saying that I probably could sneak in as a late-round pick and people were saying that I'll be a great pickup as a free agent.

"Either way it goes, I just want a chance to show my abilities at the next level. Get to a camp and be able to show the team that I can play and things like that and that I can make plays and hopefully stay on the team."

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