Philos Jones Jr. can remember exactly when he realized he had the ability to return kicks.
“When I got my first comeback against a real good team in the Park League he had lost one game in that time since he was 4, and we were 10 at the time,” Jones said. “I will say then that I realized that the sky was the limit when it came to this, and since then I have been perfecting my craft.”
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Jones’ career start and comeback yards have accumulated 2,973 in three seasons at Southern Cal and two in Tennessee at number 14 in NCAA FBS history. He also finished second in the country in 2021 averaging 15.1 yards from a penalty spot, and was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.
The Chicago Bears picked Jones in the third round of the NFL Draft on April 29 after losing 2021 kickoff and gambler Jakim Grant to free agency to the Cleveland Browns.
“I think the entire organization is excited to add a guy like this,” Richard Hightower, Beers Special Teams coordinator, said of Jones. “We’ve all kind of felt about him as a person, and we love him as a person. We love his energy. We love his speed. We love his strength. We love his sport. We love what he can do, and what he’s had the chance to do is compete here and see if he can make those things.” What he did in college translates to a professional level, and we definitely think he can.”
When Jones was playing garden ball, Devin Hester was a specialist for the Bears’ All-Pro comeback in an NFL career that lasted during Jones’ tenure as a star at Saraland High School.
“When I think of Devin Hester, I think of greatness and courage,” Jones said. “It seemed as if he slowed everything down from cuts and decision making. We knew, even back in ‘Madden’ back in the day, that it was like a total speed of 99, I’m pretty sure. So his career is in line with his game. I’ve been watching him since I was Young He made a huge impact on the rematch as a kid.
“When his name appears, I think of greatness.”
In addition to his comeback assignments, Jones had 62 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns for Tennessee last season. He also ran for 59 yards and one touchdown on 15 during his college career.
The versatility Jones demonstrated in college and the 4.31-second 40-yard dash he managed at the NFL Scouting Combine in March made Bears general manager Ryan Poles envision a rookie in multiple roles for Chicago in 2022.
“I always look for these explosive people who are playmakers and can help in many different areas, and that’s what this kid is,” the Poles said during a press conference after the draft. “When you get the chance to meet him, you will understand that he is different. He is special. There is something about him. … The man has this aura about him.
And not only can he aid our attack, he can help in many different ways. I wouldn’t compare him to (San Francisco 49ers wide receiver) Deebo (Samuels), but he has that flexibility where you can put him anywhere – backfield, hole, outside. And then He’s back, he’s a gunner – there’s so many different things he can do.And so adding that element of speed is always important because as a defense you have to say, “Where is he?” You have to find out where he is, and then all of a sudden he opens the door to other things for others. He will be a good player.”
Jones said he’s open to a wide-open role.
Jones said: “I want to win games, I want to help this coaching staff win games and I’m all about winning, in any way I can influence the game – definitely in the second leg and as a future – – I feel you can’t learn enough. I I’m glad I can do both because I can affect the match in different ways, especially for this team.”
The Bears brought back the best wide receiver as of 2021, when Darnell Mooney, formerly of Gadsden City High School, had 1,055 yards and four touchdowns at 81 receptions. But Allen Robinson, a former Pro Bowler who earned back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2019 and 2020, left in free agency for the Los Angeles Rams this off season.
Mooney is the only returning recipient to have more than two passes for Chicago last season, although the Bears brought in Byron Pringle as a free agent after collecting 42 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021.
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Mark Enabinet is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at Hahahaha