Jeremy Jones clears final hurdle on path to NFL

by RANDY GREGORY

Coming out of high school after a solid football career at Rockford, Jeremy Jones was reasonably certain his playing days were at an end. Jones was part of two state championships for the Rams, but really wasn’t too keen on all of the conditioning and practices that accompany playing football collegiately. He had generated little interest from college programs anyway, so he had pretty well decided his future wouldn’t include the gridiron. But a surprise offer from Wayne State University in Detroit piqued his interest and the rest, as they say, is history.

Following two years as an NCAA Division II All-American, and leading the Warriors to the national championship contest in 2011, Jones again probably felt his chances to play in the National Football League were minimal at best when he went undrafted in the 2012 NFL draft. But the Chicago Bears took what was perceived as a flyer by many football insiders when they signed Jones to a free agent contract in the days following the draft.

Perusing the blogs of multiple sources, Jones was described as a “camp body filler” with little chance of making even the practice squad. But those same sources didn’t take into account the determination of Jones to beat the odds. He started the final preseason game Thursday night in Cleveland and finished with an impressive four tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in a 28-20 win against the Browns.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith was effusive in his praise of Jones after the game.

“Defensively, Jeremy Jones, that was a great pick by him early in the game,” Bears coach Smith told reporters in his opening remarks following the exhibition contest in which Jones picked off Browns backup quarterback Colt McCoy. “As much as anything, you just want to see guys playing hard, their last shot to prove they belong in the NFL. We were able to get that.”

Smith continued in his praise of Jones’ effort in a starting role while the regulars rested. “I thought Jeremy Jones came in [and stood out],” Smith said. “Great interception, had a couple of good tackles. He showed up.”

When the Bears released their 53-man roster on September 1, that list included a long shot at best when training camp commenced: Jeremy Jones, Rookie from Wayne State University and Rockford, Michigan High School. He becomes the second former Ram to currently grace an NFL roster. Joe Staley is entering his sixth season as an offensive tackle with the San Francisco 49ers.

“JJ was always hard core and flat out loved to play the game,” commented Coach Munger. “His inner spirit was supported by his mother [Gloria] and she by all means is the pillar in his life. Gloria is the voice in JJ’s head that helped keep pushing him to take his talents to new levels. JJ always loved competition and could trash talk with the best of them. Now he’s competing with the best athletes in the world and it will be exciting to see how he helps ‘da Bears’ in the secondary as well as on special teams. What a tremendous and well-earned start to an NFL career. I and the entire Ram Nation wish him well.”

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