Jones ready to follow in Dielman's footsteps

Most players would agree that it is better to go undrafted than be selected late in the seventh round. The reason? Undrafted free agents have the freedom to choose their destinations. That's the silver lining for Mike Jones, an offensive guard from Iowa who was projected to go as high as round four. Now, he will compete for a spot on the San Diego Chargers' relatively thin interior line.

Mike Jones (6-foot-5, 305 lbs.) is a powerful, technically sound and versatile lineman. He played both tackle positions as four-year starter at Iowa, but will move inside to guard in the NFL because he lacks the athleticism to play in space.

He began his quest for a roster spot during the team's May 4-6 Mini Camp.

"Mini Camp went well, but it was non-padded. I can't wait to get the pads on," Jones said. "It was great working with Coach (Hal) Hunter. He has a great understanding on the game, and you can see that by the way the first group works so well together."

For many rookies, Mini Camp is an anxious time filled with uncertainties and impromptu adjustments. Jones, however, felt more at home than most. After all, he is one of a half dozen former Hawkeyes on the roster.

"There are a lot of Iowa guys here, which is great," Jones said. "I played with a lot of the guys, like Scott Chandler, Miguel Merrick, Derreck Robinson and Nate Kaeding. I didn't get to play with Mike Goff; he was class of '97. But it makes it easier to have all of those guys here."

The large number of Hawkeyes on the roster should not be surprising, as Iowa has a tradition of producing excellent pros. That is especially true of offensive linemen.

"At Iowa, we practice hard and we work hard. Those are the traits and attributes pro teams have come to expect," Jones said.

It was hard work that allowed Jones to have such a successful college career. It will take even more for him to earn a spot with the Chargers, be that on the active roster or the practice squad. Lucky for him, he has an excellent role model he can learn behind.

"Just look at Kris Dielman. That's the guy I model myself after. He came in as an undrafted free agent, worked hard and now he's earned himself a big contract," Jones said.

Jones is still a long ways away from reaching Dielman's stratosphere of productivity. However, Dielman is a self-made player who began his career on the practice squad before working his way into the starting line-up. Based on talent and work ethic alone, it appears that Jones may be capable of following in those footsteps.

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