Auburn’s unofficial media policy with player injuries during the season is to avoid discussing them at all costs.
Coach Gus Malzahn maintains a high-level of secrecy throughout the regular season to prevent opposing teams from gaining any of kind advantage.
For Jonathan Jones, Malzahn’s strategy prevented the defensive back from discussing how surgery on his foot last spring slowed him down during his senior season.
Jones went from being one of college football’s interception leaders to being upstaged by true freshman Carlton Davis, but wasn’t allowed to explain why.
“He was banged up most of the year,” Malzahn said. “A lot of weeks where he didn’t get a chance to practice. He’s a tough guy. He’s a great competitor.”
A now healthy Jones has spent the last two months proving his All-SEC honors as a junior weren’t an anomaly by turning heads at the Senior Bowl and running one of the fastest times at the NFL combine in the 40-yard dash (4.33 seconds).
On Monday, Jones declined to re-run the drill at Auburn’s pro day, but did participate in position drills with some of his former teammates in front of NFL scouts from 31 teams.
“I think it’s just a good day for me and my confidence getting back after dealing with the injury during the season and being healthy right now, just being able to have the time to prove what I can do,” Jones said.
Jones believes he’s trending in the right direction heading into April’s draft based on feedback he’s received from meetings with NFL personnel. The speed and strength he’s showed — he had 19 reps in the bench press at the combine — are erasing doubts over his lack of size.
The defensive back measured at 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds at Auburn’s athletic complex Monday. He was the shortest defensive back at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.
“I think people are excited to see what I can do,” Jones said. “They’re excited about what I’ve shown so far, so hopefully whatever team I go to, I can compete to play and get on the field.”
Jones jumped from a projected late-round pick on NFLDraftScout.com to a third to fourth round pick in recent weeks. On a conference call with reporters after the combine, ESPN NFL analyst Todd McShay said players with Jones sub-4.4 speed usually don’t get left waiting past the fourth round. As strong as Jones’ measurables are, he’s turning his focus to impressing teams in individual workouts.
“It’s been exciting, it’s a process and I have to take it day by day, not get too low or too high,” Jones said. “Just like I said, take each step of the process one by one, starting from the Senior Bowl, Combine, things like that. Each step is a process leading up to the draft.”