Figured this could be relevant to y'all. Hope you enjoy! - Ethan
In recent years, despite a constant changeover in terms of coaching staffs and coordinators, the University of Connecticut has established itself as a bit of a cornerback factory, with five former defensive backs playing key roles on various NFL teams. Byron Jones hopes to make it six, and if nothing else, he definitely has the right attitude to get the job done.
"I'm a no-nonsense guy," Jones said. "I love football but more importantly, I love the process. I love practice. I love watching film. I love the weight room. I know what I have to do to be the best."
Jones has earned some preseason praise from various NFL Draft talking heads, even early in the season. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler said that Jones "has good size and length for the position and tackles like a safety with smooth pedal in reverse." Tony Pauline, who consults for a number of websites, noted that Jones "could have a Dwayne Gratz like rise in the process if he has a big senior season." While some questions about Jones still remain, one aspect is certainly not in question for the high school wide receiver: his willingness to be flexible.
"I knew when I came to UCONN that Coach Edsall was going to move me to safety," Jones said. "Coaches want you here and they want you there. It's just about being a good athlete and being what the coaches want in a football player."
Jones was forced to transition again to cornerback after his sophomore season under the leadership of Paul Pasqualoni, but even though he had some growing pains at the position, he managed to lead the 2013 Huskies in interceptions with three. His ball skills also came to the forefront in a 2014 matchup against South Florida, where he instinctually caught a tipped pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, never breaking stride and keeping his team in the game. Jones remembered noting before that game how hungry he was to have a lucky bounce fall his way.
"The week before, lots of corners were getting lucky plays," Jones said while laughing. "And I was like, why can't that happen to me? And then, the USF game happened."
Being coached by various minds has given Jones an appreciation for how to work under different leadership styles and learn from those around him. He specifically noted the intelligence that Edsall and current head man Bob Diaco have brought to the table.
"Edsall knows coaching inside and out. He saw my athletic ability and took a chance on me," Jones mused about the man who kept him in-state and brought him to Storrs. "Coach Diaco is so intelligent. He's been teaching me new techniques and is pushing me to be the best cornerback in the nation."
As Jones continues on his grind, he feels lucky to have the support of his family and friends behind him. His three brothers were who inspired him to excel on the gridiron, and he has also worked with former Boston College safety Ryan Glasper to up his game. In terms of which NFL quarterback he'd most like to intercept…there is a family connection there as well.
"It would have to be Eli Manning," Jones said with a snicker. "Just because it would get my dad, who's a huge Giants fan, mad."