To play college football is one part of the ultimate dream for most ballplayers.
We all know the stories of kids having glorious high school careers that go on to play college ball and eventually making it to the NFL.
What about those stories in between the glory? Where the high school star has to start from scratch and fight for his spot on the team.
Keandre Jones was an Under Armour All-American and one of the best players in the state of Maryland, apart of the class of 2016. He was a hot commodity before he announced that he would play his college ball at the Ohio State University (which brought along some controversy).
Now Jones is a sophomore in college, battling to be the Buckeye′s starting Will linebacker on the depth chart. Cleveland.com considers Jones to be the 49th best player on the Buckeye′s roster but the media attention he once received on a daily has changed. During his senior year at Good Counsel, there was daily news on Jones, especially on his recruiting trail.
″I′m not big on the social media,″ Jones said about being ranked and media attention. ″I just try to stay in my own lane, put my head down and work. At the end of the day, I′m here to get a good education and hopefully have a future in the NFL. It′s definitely cool to be recognized as one of the best players at Ohio State.″
Most players in Jones situation are rarely talked about; the young guy looking to dethrone the experienced upperclassman, who in this case is junior Jerome Baker. Baker received his starting job last year after Dante Booker went down with an injury. Baker took advantage of that opportunity and finished the season as an honorable mention All-Big Ten. Jones is looking to find the same opportunity anywhere he can, even if it is on special teams, he just wants to get on the field.
″This is year two for me so I′m looking to start and play a lot more this season,″
While he is competing with the older guys, Jones still credits them for helping his transition during his freshman season. The older guys helped Keandre believe that he is a player that can dominate on the college level, similar to how he was at Good Counsel, his former high school. For most freshman, the transition might be tough coming from being a prep-star to having to work their way up the depth charts. Jones took the challenge head on and understood what he had to do in order to be successful early on, which included eating right, taking care of his body, and excelling in film study.
Playing for a guy like Urban Meyer can intimidating for most. His resume as a college coach can be considered second to none. Most outside of the program would look at him as a legend but Jones see′s him as a regular guy with a great heart.
″When he was recruiting me, he gave me the nickname Special K, and I started calling him Bossman, and it stuck with him,″ Jones said about his experience with Coach Meyers. ″I call him Bossman because he expects the best from his staff and his players and that′s what a boss does. It brings the best out of me because I don′t want to let him down.″
The upperclassmen on the team gave Jones the rundown about Meyers so he wouldn′t be shocked when he stepped on campus. They let him know he will be tested throughout his time at Ohio State and like everything else he embraced it.
Another thing he embraced with no hesitation was playing in front of 100,000 people inside of the legendary Horseshoe.
″I like the lights, the cameras, and the big crowds,″ he said about Ohio Stadium. ″It′s a lot of energy. You can feel their energy and it just makes you want to play harder and not disappoint. Go out there and make a play in front of the cameras.″
Jones understands the grind of starting from the bottom again. He let go of his success from the high school level and accepted what he has to do to make it back to a starting spot. According to Scholarship Stats, only 1.6% of high school football players receive a scholarship to play division 1 college football and only 2% of high school athletes receive some form of scholarship funding. So he has already conquered the hardest battle.
″Everybody is a four or five star on this level,″ he said. ″Once you get here, all those stars go away and you have to earn back what you gained on the high school level. You have to start from the bottom again coming in as a freshman.″
Jones wants future recruits to know that once they reached the level of big time college football, it becomes a job. He suggests young players should enjoy high school ball and the experiences that they will encounter because it is more serious on the college level. Listening to Jones speak, I can tell he is still enjoying the grind of college football. It was refreshing to know that he gets it, that he is rebuilding his name and legacy on a new level and doesn't expect anything to be handed to him. With training camp starting in five days, Jones has his mind set on dominating, both on and off the field. Stay tuned!