October 31, 2011

Jones' path a unique one

Growing up in Columbus, Jarvis Jones not only preferred basketball to football - he hated it.

In fact, it wasn't until his seventh grade year that Jones strapped on the pads for the first time.

Even as he prepared to enter Carver-Columbus for his freshman season, the thought of continuing the sport on the high school scene was the last thing he cared to do.

Fortunately for Jones - and perhaps even Georgia football fans themselves - Carver head football coach Del McGee is a very convincing man.

Jones laughed that it was McGee who laid down the law to the headstrong freshmen, telling him he'd be making a big mistake if he didn't at least give football a try.

McGee wasn't taking no for an answer.

"They ended up making me play football my freshman year, which I really didn't want to do," Jones recalled during a sit down with reporters Monday afternoon at the Butts-Mehre Building. "I played a little bit, but I hated it."

But McGee, who only needed one look at Jones to know he had someone special on his hands, wasn't going to let the young player make what he felt was going to be a tremendous mistake.

"I just told him, here you are, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4 and there are not a lot of guys playing Division I ball that have that height," McGee told UGASports. "We talked about not limiting his options. I told him his opportunities in football would be greater than they would be in basketball."

Turns out McGee knew exactly what he was talking about.

Just two days after his four-sack performance in Saturday's 24-20 win over Florida, the redshirt sophomore has garnered national attention and acclaim, just one week after being named one of 12 players earning semifinal honors for the prestigious Butkus Award.

"I'm happy for all our kids and the success they have," McGee said of Jones, who Monday earned Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. "He's playing for a winning program, and that's a big part of it. It helps your career when you're at a school where you're winning and I look for Jarvis to continue to play well."

However, it wasn't until his junior year that Jones actually started playing linebacker.

He started his career as tight end, but after graduation hit the Carver defense hard, Jones was asked to make the switch.

Later that season, the Tigers captured the 2007 state championship.

As for that contempt he used to hold for football - well, that was a long time ago.

"Man, I can't speak about how much I love football. Very passionate about it; it's unbelievable," Jones said. "I'm just glad I had the opportunity, that (McGee) sat me down and told me not to limit my options," Jones said. "Since that day, things have been falling into place."

In more ways than one.

By now, Jones' story is a familiar one to Bulldog fans.

After signing with Southern Cal, Jones suffered a neck injury against Auburn, one which Trojan team doctors deemed would keep Jones from ever playing the game again.

Jones said he was beyond frustrated when initially told the news.

"Absolutely because as a young man, all you think about is football. That's what you want to do. After my first year they were telling me it was being taken away. It was a little discouraging, but I just tried to stay focused, just believe and God blessed me to give me the opportunity to play again," Jones said. "It's my motivation - every moment I'm on the field I've got to give it everything I've got because you're always just one play away from not playing and have it taken away from you."

He's just glad Georgia was willing to take a chance.

"It's a blessing, clearly a blessing. I thank God for putting me a position to sweat and bleed with these guys every day, and to just be passionate about something I love, I can't say no more," Jones said. "We've got coaches and a great group of guys who just want to be great."

Jones is certainly becoming just that.

With his four sacks in Saturday's game against the Gators, Jones now leads the conference with eight.

"I never thought I'd be in this position to rush the passer. I always thought I was an inside linebacker. When I got here, Coach (Todd) Grantham saw it in me, he worked with me. I watched the older guys that he was teaching," Jones said. "How developed his players get is unbelievable. He spends so much time with just trying to make us better. Like I said, Coach Grantham is just so passionate about the game, you can almost put the cleats and pads on him and he'll do the same thing. I love it so much. He cares about it, and wants the best for us. He teaches us well."

Grantham has shown he's not afraid to use Jones in a variety of different ways to get the absolute most out of his considerable ability.

"I've been playing weakside (Will) linebacker for like the past three weeks now. I also played buck in the nickel defense, on the strong side. We do a lot of stuff," Jones said. "Coach Grantham's doing a lot of stuff, so we're moving guys around, mixing a lot of things up to keep the quarterback off count."

The moves certainly worked well against Gator quarterback John Brantley, who was sacked six times on the game.

Jones said Bulldog opponents can expect more of the same as there are still plenty of options in Grantham's bag of defensive tricks.

"Coach Grantham can come up with anything. He might see a play we mess up on, but he can make it positive," Jones said. "He just creates stuff, man and it works. You've got to love him because he's so passionate. He loves this game, man. He cares about us so much. He wants us to be great," he said. "Every day we go out there he just pushes us to the max. You've got to love him."

Jones certainly enjoyed beating the Gators.

As a high school recruit, Jones was pursued quite aggressively by former coach Urban Meyer, who told him what would happen should he decide to sign with the Bulldogs.

"Coach Meyer is great coach, but his recruiting tool was … if I decided to come here, he was going to beat us every year," said Jones, who said those words echoed in his head all throughout Saturday's game.

"I thought about it a whole lot," he said. "A lot of guys in that room (Georgia locker room) got recruited by Florida, too. I think he probably said the same thing to them so it meant a whole lot."

McGee said the entire Bulldog Nation should be extremely proud.

"He's always let his actions speak for itself," McGee said. "He's always been one of my favorite ex-players. He's a testament of what you can do with hard work. His background was not that good, but he served notice that he wasn't going to let that deter him from achieving what he was going to accomplish."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.