Chandler Jones made the decision to leave Syracuse after the NFL draft advisory board told him he would be a third-round pick.
Four months later, third round seems way too low. Jones has seen his stock rise perhaps more than any other prospect, with ESPN expert Mel Kiper pegging Jones to go No. 12 overall to the Seattle Seahawks as the NFL draft begins tonight.
So how has Jones balanced preparations for the next level, along with growing expectations among many that he has found a place in the first round?
"My mom always gets mad at me when I say this, but I'm going into the draft with the impression that I'm going in the third round," Jones said in a recent phone interview. "Whenever I do get picked, it's going to be shocking to me. I just want to play football again and be an impact player, but as far as going in the first round it would be a dream come true."
Jones is well aware of the way his stock has risen. He believes there are two factors that have helped him. First, he had a terrific performance at the combine, where he ranked in the Top 10 among defensive linemen in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (10 feet).
Then came his interviews.
"I stay humble through it all, but I feel like what raised my stock was the way I interviewed," he said. "I met with 14 different teams, talked to the head coach, general managers, talked to coordinators and position coaches. I felt like I carried myself very well. I came to every single interview like it was a job interview. I sat down with a coach, told him what I know, and all the coaches were impressed with how much I know, and were very intrigued with me. We watched film, and I explained what went on. They were impressed with my football knowledge."
None of that should come as a surprise. Jones has a gregarious personality, enough to leave a big impression about his character. He also has an older brother, Arthur, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens and has been a mentor in the sport. Another brother, Jon "Bones" Jones, is the UFC light heavyweight champion -- adding to the family's sporting bloodlines.
Jones played defensive end at Syracuse, but he may play more as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL, depending on where he gets drafted.
"Teams love that I'm versatile," Jones said. "Throughout my college career, I played nose tackle, I played defensive tackle and I played defensive end. With the body frame I have, 6-5, 265 pounds, I can play the 5 technique or stay where I am and play outside linebacker. I have not played in a 3-4 scheme, but there were different looks at Syracuse University where we would shift into a 3-4, and I felt comfortable. I can come off the edge real fast, so I do not think it would be too foreign. Dropping into coverage is something I will have to get used to, and it's a challenge I'm ready to tackle."
Jones also has bulked up in the time he left Syracuse, putting on 13 pounds during his time at API Performance in Pensacola, Fla. That obviously helps as well. Jones will watch the draft from the media room at the new home his brother, Jon, bought in Ithaca, N.Y.
But, it hardly matters when his name will be called.