The former Enterprise standout brings versatility to the Patriots

It’s not uncommon for NFL players to have played on both sides of football in high school. New England Patriots rookie Marcus Jones did it at Enterprise High School.

After earning All-State Recognition honorable mention at Enterprise in 2015, Jones received ASWA First Team honors in 2016 when he intercepted five passes, returned three punts, a kickoff and a fumble recovery for touchdowns, and also caught a TD pass.

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But unlike most players in major college football, Jones continued to play all over the field after high school. Last season at Houston, Jones recorded 47 tackles, intercepted two passes, ran 15 kickoffs for an average of 34.0 yards and two touchdowns, returned 26 punts for an average of 14.4 yards and two touchdowns, and caught 10 Passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

The Associated Press selected Jones as a first-team All-American cornerback, and he received matching All-American recognition in the all-purpose/return specialist slot. Jones’ versatile performance earned him the 2021 Paul Hornung Award for the nation’s most versatile player.

“In high school, I played a lot of positions wherever they wanted me,” Jones said. “Usually over time the coaches would ask me whenever I was playing what I was up for and however I could help the team I was always up for it so if the coach wanted me to attack I would do help the team or the defense, I would do that to help the team.

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As with their first-round pick Cole Strange from Chattanooga, the New England Patriots found Jones’ versatility attractive and included him in their roster in the third round of the NFL Draft on April 29.

“It’s a little bit about what I spoke to Cole about and where he could start his collegiate career in center and guard and tackle,” said Patriots director of player staff Matt Groh, “and Marcus has done it Done even more, you could say, since he was on both sides of the ball, mainly on corners, inside, outside, even using his skill level to get the ball in his hands. They’re talking about a team in Houston that was – coach (Dana) Holgorsen had really good teams there and was able to pick up a lot of points and this guy was dynamic enough that they signed one of their best players defending and putting him on offense and then they put him back there on punt returns and kick returns.

New England lost cornerback JC Jackson that offseason when he joined the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. The Patriots also lost punt-and-kick returner Gunner Olszewski in free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Don’t go into too much detail,” Jones said of what he knew about the Patriots’ plans for him. “Like I said, but I could help the team, I’m definitely for it. … Wherever they need me, it’s the same with my mindset, so whether that’s outside or inside or a security or whatever, I’m definitely down in whatever way I could help the team.”

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Jones said being able to wear so many hats on the football field takes preparation.

“The main thing that I always pride myself on is controlling what I can control,” Jones said, “so control of the controllable things, so you definitely get in touch with the coaching staff and my position coach and look at each other Watching movies, watching with my teammates, doing things like this and just helping out as a collective group because it’s not just me, you know, it’s the other guys too. And if all 11 people are working hard and dialing into the scheme and everything we have then the team as a whole works better so I’m doing those things and like I said controlling the controllables helps with everything else. “

Jones has had surgery on both shoulders since his last game against Houston, but he expects to be fully recovered in time for training camp.

“My shoulder is very good,” Jones said. “I’m just hanging in there and doing what I can to make sure I’m fully healed, so just hang in there and make sure I stay conditioned and exercise. That’s the main thing I do.”

Between Enterprise and Houston, Jones played two seasons at Troy. In 2017 he was the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year. Jones returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season.

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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