One of Kentucky’s most talented and most controversial players has found balance at the perfect time.
“I’m playing the game how it’s supposed to be played,” Jordan Jones said after Saturday night’s 28-7 victory over Mississippi State.
Jones has played well during his time at Kentucky, but that doesn’t mean he was playing the game the right way. In 2016 he was a second team All-SEC selection after recording 109 tackles, the third-best in the conference. In between all of the tackles, there were costly penalties and injuries.
Jones suffered a collarbone injury that forced him to miss half of the 2017 season. Upon his return, he helped create chaos against Louisville in a confrontation with Lamar Jackson.
“I just learned a lot from last year,” he said. “I was a whole different person, a whole different player, too.”
In the spring, he suffered another injury, this time to his shoulder. Frustrated off the field, the adversity helped him grow as a person.
“It was pretty tough having to get treatment and stuff everyday, feeling down on myself just because I wasn’t healthy, but I kept putting in work everyday and then everything worked out for the best.”
The hard work paid off against Mississippi State. Jones recorded eight tackles and a quarterback hurry. Mark Stoops said today those stats don’t reflect how well the senior played.
“This past week was arguably one of the best games he’s played,” Stoops said. “Not because of tackles or production, because of the discipline he played within the defense, and he still showed up to make critical plays when we needed it. I’ve been proud of him and his progress. We’re a quarter of the way though. He’s got a little way to go, but I’m pleased.”
“Disciplined” is not a word typically used to describe the way Jones plays. He had to learn how to walk away from confrontation, something that happened often against the Bulldogs.
“I just realized it wasn’t only hurting me, but it was also hurting my teammates. Getting 15-yard penalties — You saw it today, Mississippi State kept getting like 15-yard penalties and kept helping us out. I just realized that it’s not only hurting me, it’s just hurting my team as well.”
Instead of making costly penalties, he’s a part of a defense that creates them. Kentucky currently leads the nation in penalties committed by opponents with 10.5 per game.
“It just shows we’re a mature football team,” Jones said. “We’re just a whole bunch of grown men, all on one mission.”
Jones showed the same restraint the week before against Murray State. Instead of straining to make the big play, he focused on simply doing his job. He didn’t record a bunch of tackles, but he knocked down four passes.
“I saw the old Jordan Jones back,” Kash Daniel said last week. “The guy’s been through a lot of ups and downs this offseason with injuries and stuff like that. To see him go out and do his thing last Saturday and act like the old Jordan Jones, it was really fun to see.”
Daniel did not have many opportunities to play with “the old Jordan.” Now alongside him on the defense, the two feed off one another.
“I love playing with Jordan. He brings that energy and brings that edge. Whenever I feel down he always picks me up.”
This version of Jordan Jones still has the edge that made him great, without going overboard.
“It is rewarding because that’s what we’re in it for, to help these guys grow and mature and be successful in all facets of their life,” Stoops said.
“He definitely has matured. Jordan’s one of those kids that, he means well 95 percent of the time. He really does, he’s just a joy to be around most of the time. But, he’s got a few episodes where he can get a little off, so it’s our job to get him back on the rails. This year he’s done a good job himself of being intentional about staying ahead of it and doing the right things and I’ve been very proud of him.