Mac Jones wasn’t about to panic. He’d been in too many pressure-packed situations for that.
The Alabama quarterback sat stoically in his backstage family pod at the NFL Draft Thursday night as quarterback after quarterback — and teammate after teammate — heard his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell.
Similar to how he stayed calm in the pocket during the Crimson Tide’s run to the national championship, Jones remained patient — even winking at the camera at one point — until he got the call he was waiting for: He was headed to New England with the 15th pick.
Though Jones was closely linked to the 49ers, who traded up to the third slot last month, San Francisco chose Trey Lance after quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson went 1-2. The Bears then traded up and grabbed the fourth QB, Justin Fields, at No. 11.
The free fall was just fine with Jones, who ultimately landed exactly where he wanted.
“At the end of the day, you kind of just want to get the right fit, and I feel like secretly I wanted to go to the Patriots all along, so I’m actually really happy that it happened,” Jones said via video call. “It doesn’t really matter where you get picked, you’ve got to take the opportunity and take advantage of it. Learn the new system, learn the new coaches, and learn the new culture. Coach [Bill] Belichick has done a great job establishing that throughout his time in New England.”
Belichick continued to buck his own offseason trend, selecting a signal-caller in the first round for the first time in the 26 drafts he’s run after spending an unprecedented amount in free agency.
“He’s a smart kid, I think he’ll be able to process the offense, it will take a lot of time,” said Belichick. “Cam’s our quarterback.”
A tremendously accurate passer who played with a loaded cast at Alabama, Jones took over for Tua Tagovailoa after the southpaw was hurt in 2019 and led the Crimson Tide to a Citrus Bowl win. He came into 2020 as the starter and helped lead Alabama to the national championship. Now he’ll face off with Tagovailoa, the Dolphins’ starter, twice a year.
Jones, the seventh player from Alabama selected by the Patriots since 2010, met with the club’s representatives at the Senior Bowl, had Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels at his pro day, and has had several Zoom meetings with team officials.
“They came to my pro day and that was awesome. I know Coach Belichick and Coach [Nick] Saban have a really good relationship, so they were just kind of talking behind me and I just said hello to Coach Belichick and Coach Josh, and they were just watching and kind of looking at everybody," Jones said. “It was good for them to be there and I hopefully got to show the type of quarterback I was at that pro day, and I’m just glad that they took me and it’s going to be awesome.”
Jones added that he’s looking forward to Belichick “coaching me hard and me just taking good coaching."
The 6-foot-3-inch, 217-pound Jones, who threw 41 touchdown passes last year, enjoyed the pre-draft process.
“I think they did a great job figuring out what type of person I was and I am, just by learning my background, which a lot of people will do, but it felt more personal with the Patriots," he said.
His favorite part was just talking football.
“To get a chance to do that with Coach McDaniels is just awesome," said Jones. “He’s a great football mind and hopefully we can just continue to build our relationship that we started through the Zoom process."
Jones said he’s looking forward to joining a quarterback room with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham — a pair of Auburn guys — but he hasn’t thought about where he fits in just yet.
“I’ve never played in the NFL, and I don’t know what it’s like. So, I’m just going to go in there and work really hard like I always have and I always will," Jones said. “Cam earned the respect of the team already and my job is to support him and Jarrett, and help them become better players if I can … I’m just going to be the great teammate that I know I can be."
Jones was charged with driving under the influence during his freshman season in 2017 and was suspended for one game. He said he was upfront with NFL teams when asked about the incident.
“I addressed that with every team, I’ve learned from it," Jones said. “Obviously, it made me a lot better person, so I’m kind of glad it happened to me in a way, and I’ve just moved on and anybody that knows me knows I’m a great guy. And I try to be a great friend to everybody, and I’ve grown from it and I’ve moved on.”
Jones is the highest Patriots selection since linebacker Jerod Mayo at No. 10 in 2008. The last time New England picked at No. 15 was in 1983, when they took quarterback Tony Eason out of Illinois.
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