Richmond’s David Jones had led the FCS in INTs and was the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Player of the Year selection – then less than halfway through the 2016 season, he suffered a season-ending injury to his left arm.
Along with that disappointment, it appeared that the NFL interest waned somewhat as scouts wondered how quickly the safety would bounce back from the fracture. It was the same arm he’d injured in the FCS national semifinals in 2015, too.
After being considered a top five FCS prospect coming into the 2016 season, there were question marks. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine in March, you name it.
But here we are, less than two weeks away from the NFL Draft – and things are looking very positive for the St. Petersburg, Fla. native. The buzz is back.
“I just kept some good people around me – my parents, my coaches, my teammates, they’ve all helped with the process,” Jones told HERO Sports. “And of course I look to God overall over anything. With that being said I kept my head up and kept the mindset that everything happens for a reason. I used that as motivation.
“I’m back 100 percent, and I still have a good chance to be drafted.”
Indeed, he does. His Pro Day – March 14 – hasn’t hurt, for sure. He amazed even himself with his 4.43-second time in the 40-yard dash, and his broad jump of 10 feet, 9 inches is one of the top marks of any FCS prospect, at any position. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he’s the perfect size for a free safety, and he’s also contributed on special teams before. NFLDraftScout.com rates him a 7th rounder to priority free agent. Other sites have him higher.
Coming out of high school, it would have been hard to have projected this. A good student, Jones was courted by several Ivy League schools. Three scholarship offers were extended – Richmond, Chattanooga and Stony Brook. The Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes moved past. So did the Virginia Cavaliers, who he posted 7 tackles against last fall in a dominant Richmond victory.
“Duke had some interest in me playing wide receiver and Texas Tech was also interested, but it didn’t get to that point where they wanted to offer me,” Jones said. “I played three sports in high school, I didn’t focus on just one, and that kind of messed with the recruiting process. But as it turns out? Richmond was definitely the best option for me.”
As a junior, Jones turned heads with nine interceptions to lead the nation – with four coming in one game. In the last offseason since the injury, he worked with Exos training for that critical Pro Day – and his on the field film coupled with his off-the-field training put him back in the position to be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
He’s a popular guy amongst the California teams – the L.A. Rams, L.A. Chargers and San Francisco 49ers are all in constant contact and there have been workouts.
“I think they like my versatility, the fact I could play free or strong safety well,” Jones said. “They like my speed, my tackling, my ability to play the ball in the air and make plays. I’m happy with the results and the feedback. There is always room for improvement and I will continue to improve. I can say I’m ready for it. I’ve talked to a lot of guys who went through this process. It’s a business so I’m going this season like that. Some guys may not want to be my friend, some guys may just want to get a spot on the roster. I’m ready for that.
“Every practice is going to be like a game – every single day. I have to go in with that mindset. If I do make a team and I don’t start, I’m going to be OK with that.”