ORLANDO, Fla. – When you ask Jarvis Jones whether it’s important to him to become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, you start to get an idea where his head is at regarding making an early jump for the pros.
No, Jones still has not said definitively whether he’ll be leaving Georgia after this, his junior, year. But seeing how he is projected as a consensus top five selection by the most respected draft analysts, it’s generally thought to be a foregone conclusion that the two-time All-American will go ahead take the NFL millions now. Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.
But being the top overall pick is clearly something about which Jones has given some sincere thought. Asked if it was important to him to be selected No. 1, Jones answers the question with a question.
“Has there ever been a defensive player from Georgia drafted No. 1?,” he asked a group of reporters surrounding him before Sunday’s Capital One Bowl practice at Celebration High School. “I’m not talking about the University of Georgia. I’m talking about the state of Georgia.”
There have been several players from the state of Georgia selected No. 1 in the NFL draft, most recently Cam Newton in 2010. And there have been several Bulldogs go number one overall, including Matt Stafford in 2009, Harry Babcock in 1953, Charley Trippi in 1945 and Frank Sinkwich in 1943.
But there has not been a defensive player from Georgia that has become a No. 1 NFL pick. It’s likely that Jones already knew that. And, yes, he’d like to become the first.
“It’d be great,” said Jones, a 6-foot-3, 241-pound outside linebacker from Columbus. “If I decide to come out I’m going to train to be No. 1. I’m not going to train to be in the Top 10 or the Top 5. I’m going to train to be the No. 1 draft pick.”
For now, Jones said all he is training for is Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska. He said he has been having the time of his life in Orlando and he speaks nostalgically of the college experience. In a lot of ways, he doesn’t want it to end.
“I’m just enjoying my time,” he said. “Me and these guys have so much fun together, I can’t even think about being away from them. I know even if I did come back a lot of these guys would be gone. So you’ve got to enjoy these moments right here. Once they’re gone you can’t get them back.”
Jones has been the No. 1 attraction for Nebraska media in Florida covering the team. Of all the players on Georgia’s team, this is the one they know the most about and want to know more about.
Jones has patiently answered the same questions day after day as more media members arrive as game day draws ever closer. Todd Grantham, the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and Jones’ position coach, never gets tired of talking about him.
“He’s a guy that really enjoys playing the game,” Grantham said during a news conference at the Rosen Plaza Hotel. “He’s physical setting the edge on tight ends. Any time you play a 3-4, your ability to set the edge of the defense and force people to either bounce it or run it inside. Those are some things he does well. He’s a guy that’s pretty instinctive as far as if he sees a play once, he knows what’s happening when he sees it again in a game and can make some plays.
“He makes the players around him play better. You look at the way he played on the road at Missouri, he kind of took over in the fourth quarter. Look at the Florida game; has another dominant game. So he’s played well in big games for us and made the other players around him play well and play with energy.”
Jones, who was named a consensus All-American for the second consecutive year, obviously has had a great season. His third on the team with 77 tackles and, with 12.5 sacks, needs just two more to break David Pollack’s single-season track record.
“Two years, two-time All-American. How much more can you do?,” coach Mark Richt said.
But as the year draws to a close, Jones talks about what might have been. He’d probably already have the sack record if he hadn’t had to sit out two games with injuries. And, of course, the Bulldogs came up short in their quest to win the SEC Championship and compete for the SEC title.
“I think I played pretty well,” he said. “There were two games I wish I wouldn’t have had to miss. I think I could have done more for my team if I hadn’t missed those two games, as far as defensive rankings and things like that. But I think we played well. We overcame a lot of adversity. A lot of guys stepped up and made plays for us and I think we finished strong.”
And finishing strong, Jones said, is his motivation for Tuesday’s game against the Cornhuskers.
“We want to enjoy every last minute of it,” Jones said. “That’s why we’re down here making the best of every opportunity we get. We’ve been having fun outside of practices. Our practices have been great. Guys have been really honed in and focused and doing what our coaches asked of them. We haven’t had many missed plays. Guys have been in the right spot doing what they’re supposed to do. So we’ve been executing. It’s been great. I’m loving it.”
Sounds nostalgic, doesn’t he?
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