ATHENS — Jarvis Jones, the linebacker who traveled from Columbus to Athens by way of Los Angeles, is looking forward to finally playing for Georgia’s football team next season.
The state’s No. 3-rated prospect in his senior season at Carver High School (Columbus) in 2008, Jones turned down Georgia to sign with Southern California. In the eighth game of his freshman season at USC in 2009, he suffered a neck injury that ultimately ended his Trojans career. He requested and received a release from his scholarship after USC doctors would not clear him for spring practice this year. He sought other medical opinions and was told he could play again.
So in June, he signed with the Georgia program that he had rejected out of high school.
“When I left SC, I was, like, ‘If I go play anywhere, I want to go home [and] play in front of the people that I know care about me and are going to take care of me,” Jones said Wednesday. “I know that it wasn’t my decision out of high school, but over time things change.
“I’m just glad to have the opportunity to be here and the opportunity that Coach [Mark] Richt gave me –- the second chance to come to Georgia. Now I’m here, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
Jones was redshirted this season, satisfying NCAA transfer requirements as well as providing a health precaution. He has been practicing with the Bulldogs, serving as a linebacker on the scout team that simulates each opponent. Georgia had not allowed him to speak with the media until Wednesday, when he told the story of his long road from Columbus to Athens.
He described his injury as damage to the C5 nerve.
“When it first happened . . . the doctor told me I just needed to sit out the rest of the season so I wouldn’t damage my nerve any worse,” Jones said. “So I thought I was healthy and would come back in the spring. But we had a coaching change [Lane Kiffin replacing Pete Carroll], and when the new coaches came in, I got different answers.
“They just told me I had a career-ending injury and they didn’t think I should play any more.”
Jones said he obtained his medical file and sent it to his mother. “My mom sent it out to different doctors” who offered encouragement that he could play again. “So I was, like, ‘I do have a chance. Somebody else sees it different.’” He said he subsequently saw doctors who cleared him to play. When examined by UGA doctors in June, “I passed all my tests,” Jones said.
“I’m 100 percent healthy now,” he said. “I’ve put [the injury] behind me and all the jitterbugs that I had. I was pretty scared about how I was doing, but I’ve put that behind me. And now I’m back to having fun and playing football, something I love to do.”
The Georgia coaches insisted that he ease back into the game during this redshirt season.
“First time I got a chance to play in [preseason] camp, I hit somebody. It was really Day 1,” Jones said. “I just wanted to see where I was. . . . I got in trouble. They wouldn’t let me hit. They put me in a green [non-contact] jersey.
“I started playing scout team, doing that in a green jersey, and I started coming around, just hitting every now and then to see how it was. . . . Eventually they saw me improving and they took me out of the green jersey. Now I’m full-flow scout team.”
Jones said he expects to participate fully in spring practice, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham expects the same. Grantham said Jones now is “about full tilt” in practice. Grantham said Jones will be an asset at outside or inside linebacker, or both.
“He’s obviously a guy that’s going to help us, and I’m excited that he’s here,” Grantham said. “He’s going to be a guy who makes plays. . . . I’m looking forward to getting him out there in the spring and working with him.”
Said Jones: “Georgia really took me in. Players, coaches, everybody at the University just wrapped their arms around me and showed me the love I needed.”