Hard-Hitting Safety Relaxed as They Come

There are two sides to two-sport star Chad Jones. There's the intense "football" side and the relaxed "baseball" side.

The rookie safety, selected in the third round of the 2010 draft from LSU, is a 6-3, 225-pound bruiser whose intense hits remind some scouts of Broncos safety Brian Dawkins. YouTube Jones and you'll see his stadium-silencing hit on Arkansas receiver Joe Adams. A pass floats down the middle toward the end zone. Adams leaps high for it and collides with Jones with the force of a semi going 80 mph on the Garden State Parkway. Both players crumple to the ground and are slow to get up.

Then there's the relaxed side. A .343 hitter and centerfielder on LSU's baseball team, Jones lost his starting job after his freshman year because he left to play spring football. When he came back the team needed left-handed pitchers. Jones hadn't pitched since high school but said, "If you need a pitcher, I'll pitch."

He thought he was going to be called on to pitch for the first time in a lesser important game, so he could get his feet wet, so to speak. Quite the opposite happened.

"I'm just sitting in the bullpen clowning around, because that's what pitchers do," Jones recalled. "Suddenly they called the bullpen to tell me to warm up."

Jones was thrust into a key SEC game against Auburn, with his Tigers leading 7-4 in the seventh inning, with two men on and zero outs. After Jones delivered a scintillating first strike, the hitter knocked the next pitch to left field to load the bases. Instead of buckling under pressure, Jones coolly struck out the next two left-handed batters before being replaced by a right-hander.

After that astonishing performance, Tigers fans nicknamed him "Dreadlocks of Doom."

Jones went on to pitch well in the title game of the college World Series against Texas and collected his second National Championship ring; his first came in football in 2007.

That same relaxed coolness has helped him in football as LSU's punt returner.

Against Mississippi State, Jones calmly fielded a short-hop punt at his own seven-yard line near the left sideline and instinctively made two guys miss. Then he smoothly traversed his way across the field like he was Deion Sanders, got two great blocks, cut to the right sideline and turned on the burners for a 93-yard TD.

Jones is such a natural athlete it's difficult to say in which sport he excels more. He was drafted in the 13th round by the Houston Astros in 2007. But he loved football more and decided to go to LSU where he could play both. Coming from a football family, the choice was easy.

His father was an All-American football player at Tulane, and Jones was able to play with his brother, Rahim Alem, on LSU's 2007 BCS National Championship team.

"That 2007 championship was my biggest thrill," Jones said. "Because my brother was on the team, we worked hard together. Football is so strenuous. That's what you strive for, that's what you work for. That championship."

When Jones speaks, he doesn't come across as a rookie. He exudes relaxed confidence without sounding the least bit cocky. In fact, Jones decided to enter the draft after his junior season because he simply felt "it was time."

"I believe I'm a great player and I wanted to play among the best," he said. "I got together with my family and my coaches and we agreed."

Now that Jones and former LSU teammate Jared Mitchell are the only two players in college history to claim a BCS national title and a baseball national title, he can move on to the NFL and focus on one sport: football.

"I've been looking forward to playing football all year-round," Jones said. "Between football and baseball there is so much going on that you have to change your mindset. Football is a physical mentality and baseball is a sit back and relaxed mentality."

Considering that Jones devoted only half his time to football, and still went in the third round, means this guy may have more potential than the children of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf winning at Wimbledon someday.

Still, it takes an old-school coach like Tom Coughlin to put everything in perspective for the athletically-talented rookie.

Asked about Jones at the rookie minicamp camp, Coughlin said. "He's a little heavy and he's got some conditioning work to do . . . but he'll be very cognizant of the weight and conditioning aspect of it when he comes back."

Without flinching a lock of dread Jones, who played at a bulking 233 in college, agreed with his new coach.

"I'm at 225-226 (pounds) right now, which was my pro-day weight, but they would like me to get to 220, maybe 218 area. Since we're at a different level now the game is all about speed. Take a few extra pounds off, get a little quicker."

Jones will play wherever he is needed. With his size, strong safety would seem to be the best fit, but he'd be happy to play free safety as well.

And, of course, return punts.

"I caught a few punts after practice," he smiled, leaning back comfortably at his locker. "It went pretty good. I didn't drop any."

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