Thursday, May 21, 2009
Updated: May 22, 12:22 PM ET
Jones learns about mental side of game
By JC Shurburtt
By leaning on his football family, Under Armour All-American linebacker Christian Jones was able to battle through a tough 2008 season.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder, who is the son of former Florida State and Oakland Raiders Willie Jones, Sr., and the younger brother of the former Seminoles defensive end Willie Jones, Jr., did not experience winning during his junior year at Lake Howell High in Winter Park, Fla. His team went 0-10 and was outscored 346-53 for the season.
"It was tough," Jones said. "I tried not to let it distract me and I kept competing and kept being motivated to play. We wanted to win so badly, but didn't. I kept playing hard."
Coming from a football family has given him a lot of guidance an insight into the mental part of the game, something that can be negatively impacted by something like a winless season.
"I get coached up at home all the time by my dad and my brother," Jones said. "My dad is always there with his playing experience and so is my brother when he comes home. When you come from a football family, they really help you with your game."
His father believes that 2008 helped his son to grow as a player.
"From a teaching standpoint, he learned a lot," Jones, Sr. said. "He got to understand how to handle adversity on the field. Some guys want to quit. But he is a leader."
Despite the rough year in terms of his team, Jones posted more than 150 total tackles. Following the season, he started to catch the eye of college programs as early as his stellar showing at the Orlando Under Armour Combine in January. Florida State, his father's and brother's alma mater, jumped in. Florida, Southern California, Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.), Alabama and others have followed.
"If you were going to carve a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker prospect out of clay -- he may very well look like Jones," Scouts Inc.'s Billy Tucker said. "He has the coveted height, long frame and vertical attacking skills sought after at the position."
Those skills earned him an invitation to play in the Under Armour All-America game in Orlando, which is right down the road from Winter Park.
Jones is looking forward to being a local representative in the event. Having his family, including his grandparents who live 50 miles east in Melbourne, Fla., see him play on one of the biggest stages in the country is a plus as well.
"It gives me a shot to show that Orlando has some pretty good players," Jones said.
The exact moment of Jones' christening into the family tradition of football excellence is a subject of debate. For Willie Jones Sr., it was watching him participate in football of a different kind.
"Back when he was eight years old and playing soccer," Jones Sr. said. "He was doing some amazing things as a young kid on the soccer field. He was making a lot of plays then as a young kid."
Jones thinks that it was earlier than that.
"I feel like I was born to play football," he said. "But I went to a small Christian school when I was in seventh, eighth and ninth grade and that's where I started playing football. At that point, I felt like I was going to be pretty good."
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.