David Jones entered his senior season as a top prospect for the NFL draft, and although an injury ended his time on the field early, he has been working hard at a training camp in Texas in the hopes of earning a chance in the league.
At 23, Jones has reached many of his athletic goals. His sports career began when he was only 7 years old.
“I could do all the running, jumping and scoring the touchdowns, and that’s when I realized, 'Hey, maybe this is my sport,’” Jones said.
He lettered in basketball, track and football in high school — at Richmond, he was named both preseason CAA Defensive Player of the Year and second-team All-American in 2016.
After graduating in December, he began working to achieve a goal he said he set for himself years ago: to play in the NFL.
Richmond recruited Jones as a football player but did not assign him a specific position because of his versatility. He was to be played wherever he was needed. He redshirted his freshman year and spent most of his sophomore year playing on special teams as a cornerback before becoming a safety his junior year.
Jones fractured his left forearm for the second time on Sept. 24 in the game against Albany. Before his injury, Jones said he was projected to be a third-round draft pick and was one of the top five college safeties in the nation.
Jones said that his agent, Garriet Blair, was attempting to get him into the NFL Scouting Combine to help his chances of being drafted. If he is not featured in the Combine, which is held from Feb. 28 to March 6, he plans on attending a pro-day so scouts can still see what he can do.
“David is really going to have to sell his ability to play special teams," former Richmond defensive coordinator Bob Trott said. "In the NFL, safeties are a huge part of special teams. He has to prove that he is durable and is not going to break again.”
Eric Berry, a safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, had to sit out games after he was discovered to have lymphoma. He has been an inspiration to Jones as he heals, Jones said.
“Every time I think about him, I think about how committed he was to get back on the field,” Jones said. “Even with his life on the line, he has definitely been an inspiration to me. ...You get hurt and you get depressed and people start doubting you, and then you have to sit around, wait to heal and work your way back up and that's hard.”
Now ranked as the 11th best safety in the nation, Jones is projected to be a seventh-round draft pick, according to CBS Sports.
“I definitely think David has the athletic ability to play at the NFL level,” Lemond Johnson, Jones' friend and former teammate, said. “He is really smart and he watched more film than anybody.”
Trott says that Jones has the potential to succeed in the NFL if he goes to the right team.
“He should go to a team that needs an athletic type safety. …And then it depends on the team and how many safeties they need," he said.
Jones has been preparing for the draft by working out, watching film and doing rehab for his arm at EXOS in Frisco, Texas.
“We work out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays twice a day, and Tuesdays and Thursdays we work out three times a day, and on Saturdays we work out once in the morning,” Jones said. “You could be sitting around at the house and the next man is working out, watching film, getting better, so you have to keep that in mind to keep you going.”
Slight work, 20.1 mph not even full speed pic.twitter.com/kd9SYjf1GL
— David Jones ™ (@the_davidjones) February 1, 2017
On the field, Jones is a leader and an inspiration to his teammates. Off the field, Jones is described as the kind of person you can go to with anything.
“He has this look, and if you get it you know you need to reevaluate your choices,” Rachel Scoratow, a close friend of Jones, said. “He is very mature and embodies a lot of qualities that are really rare for someone his age.”
Jones is also respectful.
“The first time we met through a mutual friend on the team, he shook my hand,” Brennan Davis, a junior at Richmond, said. “He is the kind of guy who will give you the shirt off of his back and I see him as a mentor and big brother.”
Scoratow and Davis both said that Jones was committed to football and could see how his actions off the field could impact his game.
“He sees beyond the moment,” Scoratow said. “He is the first person to say ‘No, I won’t go out this Thursday, because I have a game on Saturday that I want to be prepared for,’ and you can tell his dedication to the game pays off.”
Davis described Jones as explosive and commented on his natural ability to grab attention from the stands.
“When he is on the field, all eyes are on him," Davis said. "When the defense steps on you immediately see 13 and everyone is waiting for him to make another big play.”
There are two other Spider football players also seeking a spot in the draft. Winston Craig and Brian Brown have been training in Richmond. The draft is 86 days away and there is a possibility three Spiders from last year's team will make it in the pros.
Contact contributor Caitlin Helsley at email@example.com