There are any number of talented freshmen in college football, but there is only one Chris Jones and his path to prominence has been a little different from the rest. His skills are a little less refined, his manner a little more unorthodox. He's the rare blue-chip prospect who earned his stars late in the game, a naive country boy from a small corner of an already small state.
Houston is barely a freckle on the map of Mississippi. Less than 4,000 people live there. Fewer than 11 percent of residents in the surrounding county have a bachelor's degree and nearly a quarter of them live below poverty.
Houston High coach William Cook welcomed Jones to the Hilltoppers in the summer of 2011 after he moved there to live with his mother. Jones entered as an unknown, not yet a prospect, not yet a full-time football player. At 6-foot-6, he liked to play basketball, too. He was a big kid who could move. He didn't know what he was doing a lot of the time, but boy could he run and jump. He was a pure athlete, as unrefined as uncut sugarcane -- coarse and full of promise.
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