I’m old and washed up. He’s young with the world at his fingertips. He’s a four-star quarterback from Jacksonville, Florida. I was labeled as an athlete and played in small town Kentucky before the star system was invented.
Being recruited nearly thirty years ago, I didn’t have to navigate the land mines of social media, the constant bombardment of text messages, camps/combines, all-star games, and recruiting services. Mac Jones does so on a daily basis. A shared fault that elder has-been football athletes (me) make is to disregard today’s generation due to the enormity of media attention and the individual nature of offseason competition. Man, was I ever wrong.
To further understand and empathize, I correlate the modern-day with ancient. For example, today’s social media offer announcements are no different than my generations when recruiting letters were strategically placed in the back pocket of faded blue jeans for our classmates to see as we walked down the hallway. Same intent, similar pride in accomplishment, just communicated in a different manner to an infinitely larger audience. Thankfully, the world was much smaller thirty years ago. Mac Jones the quarterback prospect has reformed my view of modern day college football recruiting. I appreciate that. I pray I’m never too old or stubborn to learn.
For my one year KSR anniversary post, I recently conducted a questions and answers interview with Mac Jones. Please note that the below questions may seem somewhat bazaar. But in typical KSR fashion, I hope his comments help to paint a better picture of the future face of Kentucky Football.
Without using other player’s names as an example, who is Mac Jones the quarterback?
Mac Jones: Everyone knows exactly what quarterback I'm going to say is similar to me. I'll let you guys figure out the name. Let's say that I'm a poised, natural thrower and I'm more competitive than anyone. Of course everyone says they are the most competitive person, however, I believe I take it to a whole new level. I may not be the strongest or biggest but my mental toughness helps compensate. (Tom Brady)
Camps and combines are a new phenomenon. For those of us who are unsure of their goings on, please walk us through the Baltimore Rivals QB Challenge.
Jones: First they supply us with tons of gear. Everything is free including airfare and hotel rooms. I would say they gave us over $700 worth of gear. The QBs all meet with each other and we begin bonding quickly. In Baltimore the first day was more fun and we didn't do much just watched the ILL speed challenge. The next day I switched into a whole new mode, I went from being sort of loose and nonchalant to full competition mode.
As a rising four-star, is landing the fifth important and what would that mean to you?
Jones: A 5th star would be cool and all. But at the end of the day, nothing can save you on the field, you must play and if my play is good enough for a 5th star then good for me. However, I would play and work the same if I was a 5 star or a 1 star.
Through your extensive 7 on 7 experience, have you developed an internal clock that helps you to better simulate game situations?
Jones: 7 on 7 is a whole different game. It really is nothing like real football... It's good for timing and reading defense. As you probably know, in a real football game, the quarterback probably only gets to throw in a clean pocket 6 times a game or less. It's competitive and fun however real football is a battlefield not a shooting range.
I can tell a great deal about quarterbacks just by observing their comfort level while throwing the entirety of the receiver route tree. So, which route is your favorite and why?
Jones: I love timing routes from the far hash. The 15 yard out from the far hash is my favorite throw. I can make that throw consistently. The throw is extremely difficult and I love the challenge it provides both the receivers and myself.
In the Bolles School offense, you take snaps from under center as well as in the shotgun. While reading defenses, which method do you feel the most confident and why?
Jones: I feel more comfortable under center. However, the shotgun is much easier to see and read defenses. Spread formations and shotgun spreads the defense making it easier to see and read. Usually, when under center, the box is loaded with defenders and it's more crowded than if you are in shotgun. Most People know it's a lot easier to go under center in HS to shotgun in college than from shotgun in HS to under center in college.
You’re blessed to be coached by a legend. Describe Coach Roger’s impact on you as a football player and person.
Jones: Coach Rogers has left a tremendous impact on both myself as a player and a person. He knows more and has experienced more football than anyone I have ever been coached by. I'm very thankful to be coached by such a legend, and he will always have a special place in my heart as my favorite coach. He also has helped me through my maturation process. I will always have his voice in my head reminding me of his coaching points.
You committed to Kentucky early in the recruiting process. Since then, you’ve been offered by several other programs. You said after your last visit that you’re solid with the Cats. Do you feel relieved after that declaration?
Jones: Yes I feel very comfortable with my commitment right now. I'm going to evaluate my offers as I have always done but I feel good about my commitment.
The picture of you touring the new facility wearing a hard hat and reflective vest went viral. Did your boys give you a hard time about that one?
Jones: Hahaha... A lot of people made fun of me for that one. They all know my intention of creating an image of me as "Mac the Builder". Hopefully they got the memo though.
Do you plan on being an early enrollee? If so, what do you expect from your first semester on campus?
Jones: My school doesn't usually allow players to graduate early. However, my family is going to meet with the school to see if we can make a plan. I want to get acclimated to the feel of campus, and I think it will help me avoid a redshirt year. However, if I do redshirt that's fine.
To what extent did Kentucky’s facilities upgrade factor in your decision to become a Wildcat?
Jones: The facilities show two aspects about UK football. One, it shows the people care about UK football, for them to throw in that much money shows they want to put the team in the best place to succeed. Secondly, the facility allows us to use as many resources as we can to improve our game. Everything is very convenient.
In today’s recruiting mind-set and in regards to facilities, which is more influential in the decision; the stadium or training/practice facility?
Jones: Probably both. The facility prepares you for games in the stadium. The facility and coaches create the culture and the game day experience creates tradition.
Being the starting quarterback of an SEC football team can be quite demanding. Are you prepared to eventually become the face of the franchise?
Jones: I'm prepared and unprepared. I'm prepared because I'm going in to the situation thinking it's going to be tough and that it’s like a job. The QB is the CEO of the program. I'm unprepared in that I have never been an SEC QB so I have no idea what it is like. My perception of being an SEC QB could be completely different than what I think.
Prince or Justin Bieber? Had to sneak that in here.
Jones: Hahaha. For sure Prince. I'm not a big Justin Bieber fan; he is kind of a punk.
Against Raines in the 34-8 playoff loss, down 8-0 your team went three and out on the 10-yard line. After a fumbled punt recovery, you threw a play action pass for a 50-yard touchdown. What did you say to the offense before taking the field?
Jones: I told them what I always tell them. I tell them that we are just running another drive just like practice. They do a great job responding to my emotional speeches. A big reason why that drive was successful was due to that speech.
What would a state title mean to your community, teammates and coaches? How about you?
Jones: It would mean so much. First of all, we haven't won a title in 5 years. Our coach has won 11 state titles and we know he is getting older and all. So we want to win one more for coach Rogers so he can go out with another ring. Our community is used to state championships but we want to prove that we can win a state championship like the 11 other teams. Our coach has stressed the fact that those teams worked extremely hard but we're not necessarily more talented than us. After he said that, we realized we could have a run at States. The weight room culture changed almost immediately.
Let’s say in the state championship game that rain and wind forced your team to run the football on every down. You finished 0-0 for 0 yards. What would you say to the press afterwards?
Jones: If we won, I would be very happy. I could care less about stats and touchdowns. If our team wins I don't give two farts about how I played. If I play bad, then the loss is on me. Obviously I want to help contribute to winning but if we are successful running the ball then we will run to victory.
In your freshman year at UK, you’ll have players in the huddle that are 22 and 23 years old. Are you a strong enough leader to demand their respect from day one?
Jones: The respect will come. I'm not going to come in demanding or expecting anything. Coach Rogers told me the easiest way to earn someone's respect is on the field not by talking about it. An easy way to earn respect is by being a hard worker and being the first one to every meeting of event. On the field play should earn respect through how I play.
Tell us something about Mac Jones that we don’t already know.
Jones: I speak Chinese. I'm not fluent yet but let's say I could go to China and survive easily. I love to play tennis and I want to be a coach or broadcaster when I get older.
Impressive and mature answers from the high school junior. As for me and my learning experience; the longstanding adage rings true today, old dogs can learn new tricks. I now have a better understanding and respect for the modern day college football prospect’s mindset. In the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively unchanged from thirty years ago. The differences lie within the periphery of communication, opportunity, and media focus.