ATHENS - Jarvis Jones is headed to one of the most successful organizations in pro football.
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Jones, the two-time All-American linebacker from Georgia, with the 17th overall pick in the NFL draft. Once Jones slipped that far in the first round, it wasn't much of a surprise Pittsburgh took him: Several mock drafts projected Jones being picked by the Steelers.
"I think I just made a great fit with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am loving it," Jones said, according to a transcript of a conference call. "The combine stuff is over with now. I’m in the zone right now, and I’m enjoying it. I’m just trying to stay on the positives and enjoy it and get to work."
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was at UGA's pro day, when Jones had what was called a poor performance. But evidently Tomlin and the Steelers weren't swayed.
"He plays in a very similar scheme, he’s asked to do things in a manner in which he’ll be asked to do it here in Pittsburgh, very little guesswork in that regard made it a fun evaluation and made it a comfortable evaluation," Tomlin said, according to the transcript. "He excelled in what they asked him to do and he’ll be asked to do similar things here."
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told media in Pittsburgh they were happy after Jones' sub-par 40 time at his pro day, because it meant Jones might fall to the Steelers.
"He definitely was one of the guys that I talked about the other day as being a special player in this draft," Colbert said. "He’s a solid kid. He’s a great player. He’s productive at a major college level. In fact, he’s been dominant at the major college level. He plays the run, he chases the ball, and most important he gets after the passer, a highly productive pass rusher in one of the best conferences in the country."
"I just had a great visit and I talked to Coach Tomlin at my pro day," Jones said. "I was very confident and they sounded pretty legit to me. He was talking about how he liked my game and how I could fit in right away, and do what I’m supposed to do. Just come in and play, they needed an outside linebacker. I’m just so happy to be a part of this organization."
The Jones pick was praised on the air when it was made.
"On a scale of 1-10, Jarvis Jones' character is a 15," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said on the air.
"Thank goodness Jarvis got selected for playing the game," added Jon Gruden, the former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst.
The last Georgia player to be picked by the Steelers was receiver Fred Gibson, a fourth-round pick in 2005. The last Georgia player to be a Steelers' first-round pick was running back Tim Worley, the seventh overall pick in 1989.
(Worley returned to speak to the Georgia football team earlier last season, and probably met Jones.)
And of course the Steelers were the longtime home for former Georgia star Hines Ward.
One other twist: Jones broke the Georgia sack record held by David Pollack, who back in 2005 was also the 17th overall pick of the draft, by another AFC Central team, Cincinnati.
"This kid, when you watch him play, I don’t care what he runs. He’s a football player in every phase of the game and that was what was really exciting," Colbert said. "When the time wasn’t quite what others were looking for, we were excited."
SEC players were taken with six of the first 13 picks. But the first pick from an SEC East school was unexpected: Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson went 13th overall to the New York Jets. It was Richardson who uttered the instantly infamous "old man football" quote about Georgia, propelling the Bulldogs (led by Jones) to a win at Missouri.