BOWLING GREEN — Chris Jones spent time at the NFL combine, and all he got was a lousy t-shirt.
Well, that’s not entirely true: Jones actually received three t-shirts. One had, “Most Important Job Interview” written on the front, while a second said, “Now or Never,” and the third had, “NFL Scouting Combine.”
But Jones, a senior defensive tackle on the Bowling Green State University football team, said going to the combine was about more than collecting clothes.
“It was the most interesting event in my life,” he said. “To be blessed enough to be invited and participate in it was awesome.
“Even though it was stressful, I would definitely do it again. I was glad I was able to come from Bowling Green and put our name out there. … I tried to represent myself and Bowling Green at the highest standard so that guys in the future have a chance [to participate].”
Last season, Jones ranked among the top defensive tackles in Division I football, earning All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America. Jones was the Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year this past season after posting 42 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks, to lead the Falcons to an 8-5 record, a 6-2 MAC mark and a berth in the Military Bowl.
Jones was training at school in preparation for the NFL draft when he received the invitation to participate in the combine in late January. The 6-2, 302-pound native of Brownsburg, Ind., went to the IMG Academy in Brandenton, Fla., for three weeks to prepare for the combine.
“We did the physical training — the running and the lifting,” Jones said. “They had nutritionists there, so we knew what to eat.
“But the biggest thing was for an hour every day we had other kinds of training: media training, mental conditioning, and nutritional training. They also asked us position questions just like they would ask at the combine.”
Jones said that training proved beneficial once he reached Indianapolis, the site of the combine, and things quickly became a whirlwind.
“When we got there we went from the airport to the hotel to the hospital — and you’re there for hours,” Jones said. “Then it was dinner-orientation-meetings, with bedtime at 11 p.m. — and a 4 a.m. wake-up call the next day for the next battery of tests.
“They would ask a football question, then a random question about my life, then go back to football. We got up early, took the Wonderlic test, had more psychological testing — then we did our bench. We had been up since early in the morning, hadn’t had much to eat or rest, and then did the test.
“They were really testing how well we dealt with stress, especially stressors that would come up in the NFL.”
Jones had mixed results in the physical testing. His 30 reps bench-pressing 225 pounds was the fourth-best mark among the defensive linemen who tested, but his time of 5.3 in the 40-yard dash was the slowest among the linemen who participated.
Jones said he didn’t take part in any position drills or jumps after twisting his ankle late in his training.
“I know I can run faster than that,” he said. “I also hope to improve my vertical and my jumps, because I wasn’t able to work on that much because of my ankle.”
Jones will have a chance to improve on his 40 time when he and several other Bowling Green seniors take part in the Falcons’ “pro day” on March 12.
BG coach Dave Clawson said just having Jones take part in the combine was a plus for the program.
“The exposure we got — and that Chris got — is good, both for Chris and for our program,” Clawson said. “The way Chris handles himself I am sure will open more doors for players from Bowling Green to get opportunities in the future.”
And while Jones has only memories and t-shirts to remind him of his time at the combine, he is grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“There’s a little bit of business, but this also is something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life,” he said. “I want to keep that dream alive. I know once I get there, it becomes a cut-throat business.
“But I think the guys who put in the work are the ones who are going to make it. I’m going to put in the work that will help me out.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.