Jones completely comfortable with NFL draft decision

TAMPA, Fla. — There was no epiphany for linebacker Jarvis Jones.

Richard Hamm/Staff
Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones has already stated his intent to forego the NFL draft and said Wednesday that teammate John Jenkins will do the same.

He never had a moment that convinced him to remain at Georgia. There was no specific goal that has kept him from leaving for a professional contract.

He just never felt the lure of the NFL outweigh his interest in soaking up the experience of playing college football.

“If I did go to the NFL, I could learn that way,” Jones said. “I definitely know that they’ll teach me what I need to know. But here it’s just different. You’ve got your guys that you’ve really bonded with, that you can hang around with. In the NFL, it’s just a whole different level.”

Jones is the returning centerpiece of Georgia’s defense, which closes out the season on Jan. 2 against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. The redshirt sophomore linebacker has amassed 69 tackles, ranks second in the nation with 13.5 sacks and is part of a defense that is among the top 10 in several categories.

His prowess at the position earned him plenty of accolades, including first-team All-America and All-Southeastern Conference honors, and he was a finalist for the Butkus Award, which is given each year to the nation’s top linebacker.

NFL draft analysts took notice of Jones’ potential as an NFL pass rusher, and ESPN’s Todd McShay recently projected Jones as a low first-round pick if he were to enter this year’s draft.

Neither the awards and the draft projection nor the earning potential could sway Jones this season.

“I never thought about the NFL until (reporters) asked me about it,” Jones said. “It wasn’t even in my mind. I just love the game. I just love going out there playing, giving everything I’ve got, being there to support my boys on the field and leaving everything out there.”

Having announced his decision early, Jones said it helped relieve some of the pressure on the Bulldogs’ defense and inspired some confidence in what the team will return in 2012.

“I think they understand what we’ve got here. I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Jones said. “We can’t do anything but improve. All our coaches are coming back. If all the players are coming back, it’ll be something special.”

So began the buzz over what Georgia could accomplish next season.

“I think it really started right there, with a guy like Jarvis really saying that he’s really going to return,” defensive lineman Abry Jones said. “He’s a guy who is really truthful with himself saying he’s not ready for it.”

There are still a few who have not yet made a decision but have requested an assessment from the NFL draft advisory board, including safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Cornelius Washington. Knowing a prominent player such as Jarvis Jones has publicly vowed to return has made leaving sound less appealing to some.

“It really makes me think even harder about the decision because I know we will still have some great players next year here to make plays,” Rambo said. “With Jarvis coming back and all the rest of the guys, it’s just more plays to be made out there. If I decide to come back, I’ll know that all of us are going to be making plays together.”

Jarvis Jones said he would like to see his teammates follow his lead in returning but has not pressured them and has promised to support them regardless of their decisions.

“They know what I stand for, but it’s all part of when that decision comes and it’s right for you, you’ve got to make it happen for you,” he said. “An opportunity only comes so many times. If it’s there for you now, you’ve got to take it. A lot of these guys come from different backgrounds, and a lot of issues that people don’t really know about. So any time you get that opportunity, you’ve got to make it happen.”

As for Jarvis Jones, he’s comfortable putting off his own NFL draft concerns at least another year.

“I love being here, I love the guys I’m playing with and I love my coaches,” Jones said. “I don’t think I’m ready to let that go yet.”

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