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East grad Robert Jones ready for NFL Draft

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 10:44 PM CDT
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(WIFR) - The NFL draft is this weekend, and just like a year ago, the Rockford area will have a rooting interest. East grad Robert Jones took a long and winding path to the draft, but one that he and his former high school head coach are proud of.

“Growing up in Chicago, I never thought I’d be playing football. Everybody tried to be a basketball star. I thought I was going to grow up to be like Derrick Rose.”

Robert Jones dreamed big just like any kid, except he was a big kid in high school.

“I tried out for the freshman team, they told me I was too big,” said Jones. “I was only like 260-270. He cut me, I guess he wanted skinny guys. That broke my heart. I was over there even trying to lose weight. I was trying to lose weight, starving myself. Which I didn’t realize it made me gain weight because I started eating more later on.”

Jones can laugh about it now, but back then he almost gave up on sports completely.

“No matter what you’re going through, a little perseverance, it’ll take you so far.”

Jones moved from Chicago to Rockford and went to East for his senior year of high school.

“When he came here, it was over with. He wasn’t playing basketball anymore,” explained East football head coach Gary Griffin. “Because our focus was on getting him to graduate on time”

Jones had never played varsity football before. Griffin saw something in him.

“You get a kid, with potential, and you give him all the tools, and they decide if they want to take those tools and build a product, or if they want to just go in a different direction,” said Griffin. “He’s done everything he can do possibly to build that product.”

“He gave me the opportunity,” explained Jones. “He contacted schools. He told everyone this guy’s new to football, man he can be something special, a future NFL player. He believed in me. He got other coaches to believe in me.”

Jones played two years at Highland Community College in Kansas before transferring to Division One FCS Middle Tennessee State. After two years with the Blue Raiders, Jones decided it was time to take chance at the draft.

“I’m just grateful. Especially me, just, being so new to football, I just want an opportunity because at the end of the day, I know what I’m capable of. I know I got a lot to learn, but I know what I can do on the field. With a little coaching, I can be one of the best in the league. I will be one of the best in the league

And if you ask griffin if we’ll hear robert’s name called this weekend... He says there’s no doubt about it.

“People say all the time there’s a ton of guys. If there was a ton of guys out there that could play in the NFL, it wouldn’t be the most popular sport in America. They’re elite. They’re the best of the best. He’s in that class already. So, I expect to hear his name, I just do.”

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