- Mitch Sherman, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
At 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds with a monstrous wingspan, elite athleticism and newly educated on the technique required to play defensive end, Chris Jones possesses all the tools to control a football game.
The last thing he needs is extra motivation.
So when Jones gets it, look out.
Case in point: When Jones and his Houston (Miss.) High School teammates faced Bruce (Miss.) High School in 7-on-7 play last summer, a coach on the opposite sideline delivered Jones a message, in person and straightforward.
You won't touch our quarterback in the fall, the coach said.
"I was thinking about that all year," said Jones, honored Friday in a jersey-presentation ceremony at his school as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game.
On Sept. 21, Houston beat Bruce 21-6. Jones sacked quarterback Davis Brown five times, part of his 13-tackle performance. The defender added seven QB hurries as Brown threw three interceptions.
Safe to say, Jones put his mind to the task and accomplished his mission. No different six weeks later as Houston, in search of the school's first-ever playoff victory, met Amory (Miss.) High School. Up by two points in the final minutes and seemingly in control, Houston twice handed the football back to Amory.
"You just saw Chris single-handedly say, 'I'm going to shut this down right now,'" Houston defensive coordinator Coty Cox said. "And he did. There was a look in his eyes that's hard to explain."
Houston won 26-24 and advanced with a 34-0 win last week over Yazoo City (Miss.) Yazoo County to play Louisville (Miss.) High School on Friday.
At the center of Houston's most successful season sits Jones, who transferred to the school before his junior year from Nettleton (Miss.) High School. He missed half the season a year ago while awaiting clearance on his eligibility, then showed only glimpses of his potential in the final six games as a junior.
"The biggest thing that carries over to this year is the nonstop motor," Houston coach William Cook said. "People are going to run away from him, but he's keep coming after you. He never stops going.
"When he extends his arms, there's no way for anybody to get their hands on him. It's a rare blend of size and speed that makes him what he is as a player."
Jones, through 13 games, has collected 13 sacks and 148 tackles.
He developed into a dominant lineman after attending multiple camps, including an event at Mississippi State, last summer.
"It wasn't that he was doing things incorrectly," Cox said. "He had just never been taught it before. He lined up and ran over the guy in front of him. You take a guy who has the power to do that, give him some tools to work with, and it becomes lethal very quickly."
Jones committed to Mississippi State in June. His pledge remains solid even as his recruiting profile soars. He entered the ESPN 300 this month at No. 164, the highest ranked among eight newcomers to the updated list.
He said he's honored by the selection to the Under Armour game.
"I'm glad to be a part of it," Jones said. "It feels great, but I've still got to work hard."
His take on the key to this breakout season?
"I bought into the system," he said. "I'm not there yet. Everything I do, I know it can be better. I don't strive to be as good as anyone. I strive to be better."