TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (BVM) — The Mac Jones that college football fans know today is a legend. He’s an Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback, an NFL early-round draft pick prospect, and a national champion. He’s the winner of the 2020 Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top QB as well as the winner of the 2020 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the nation’s top upperclassmen QB. The list goes on and on.
However, becoming the epitome of college football success was a long process. Out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., Jones was just a three-star recruit, yet he boasted 20-plus offers to high-major Division I programs. The potential was always there. Jones chose to commit to play for the Kentucky Wildcats, coached by head coach Mark Stoops.
He had been committed to the Wildcats since 2015, before the start of his junior year. Jones was dedicated and ready to head to Lexington following his senior season, until Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide came calling.
In April of 2016, Alabama extended the 6-foot-2 pro-style QB a scholarship offer, which got him thinking. After one visit to the campus, his decision to be a Wildcat stood strong. It wasn’t until after the second visit to Tuscaloosa that Jones knew this was where he belonged.
Despite the presence of now-NFL QB Jalen Hurts and another now-NFL QB Tua Tagovailoa, Jones wanted to be at Alabama. He was fully prepared to pay his dues, learn from the best, and take the chance on himself developing into a starter-worthy option. But another factor that played into this decision was his self-awareness. Looking back on his decision, Jones revealed some more truth as to why he flipped his commitment.
“I respect that (Kentucky) program,” Jones told reporters, “but you know I might have had to go in there and play a little bit more and I don’t know if I was ready for that.”
When he arrived at Alabama as a redshirt freshman, Nick Saban confirmed Jones’ self-assessment.
“When he came as a freshman, he was probably 180-185 pounds, was not very strong,” Saban told reporters, “He needed to mature physically.”
Jones took this to heart and did everything that was asked of him, and then some. He had a goals sheet that featured physical, mental, academic and on-field goals. The sheet detailed the means needed behind completing each of these daily exercises and the benefits of doing them. Every tiny objective was a stepping stone towards what he one day hoped to accomplish, like winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship.
Fast-forward three years, and Jones’ process worked. He was a Heisman finalist this season, losing to none other than his own teammate who he helped win the award, wide receiver Devonta Smith. He secured the national championship with a win over Ohio State, where he was 36/45 with 464 yards and five touchdowns.
He has now earned himself the opportunity to be considered a first-round draft pick after throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns on the season. Having recently declared for the NFL Draft, Jones will now keep his head down and continue to work on getting better. Of course, after he enjoys the celebrations of his national championship.
Next stop: hearing his name called on draft night.