FOXBOROUGH – Jonathan Jones is always in a hurry. Whether it’s on the football field or away from it.
So when the Auburn cornerback, who was projected to be a fourth- or fifth-round pick in the NFL Draft, didn’t hear his name called last month, he got over it. In a hurry.
Shortly after Mr. Irrelevant was revealed at last month’s three-day draft, Joseph, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash among cornerbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine, wasted little time sifting through his offers and picking the Patriots.
“There were some teams I was talking to, but I think once I got the chance to talk with the coaches and talk with everyone in this organization, I knew this would be a great spot for me,’’ Jones said Thursday. “They preach here that you get what you earn here, so it’s kind of one of those places that as long as you put the hard work and dedication in, you’ll get the result.’’
He needs to look no further than teammate Malcolm Butler, who walked in Jones’s shoes just two years ago. Butler arrived as an undrafted free agent cornerback and now is known as both a Super Bowl hero and Pro Bowler.
When asked if Butler’s rapid rise through the NFL ranks served as an inspiration or helped him decide his future football home, Jones answered in the affirmative.
“Definitely,’’ said the All-SEC performer. “This organization is one of the best put together organizations. They truly believe that you get what you earn, so you come here, you put in the work, you put in the time and preparation and the rest is up to the coaches to make their decisions.’’
Jones is hoping his time spent in the tough SEC has helped him prepare for the rigors of the pros but he also knows he’s playing a new ballgame now.
“The SEC is a good league, but the NFL is a whole different level,’’ said Jones, who is listed at 5 feet 10 inches and 181 pounds. “I think you have to come in here, be humble and start from the bottom.”
“Learn from a lot of the veteran guys and take it day-by-day and be the best you can be.’’
As for his blazing speed — he clocked a 4.33 in the 40 in Indianapolis — Jones said it’s always been his strong suit.
“Starting at a young age, playing football since I was 4 years old, just outrunning people and then I got a little bit older and people started saying I should try track,’’ said Jones, who won the national title in the 110-meter hurdles as a senior at Carrollton (Ga.) High, with a 13.72. “So I started running track when I was about 8 and kind of stuck with it since then, so I’ve always kind of had that itch to be fast.’’
Jones has plenty of company in the secondary as the Patriots also signed undrafted rookie corners Cre’Von LeBlanc of Florida Altantic and V’Angelo Bentley of Illinois. Both are taking a similar approach to Jones.
“Right now, it’s like coach [Bill Belichick] always says, ‘It doesn’t matter about how you get here, it matters what you do when you get here,’ ’’ said LeBlanc.
Bentley said he’s trying to soak everything in.
“I’m just taking what I’m learning from each guy in the whole locker room and just trying to put it all into a pot and become the best me I can be,’’ said Bentley.
Out in the country
C.J. Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton were not a package deal when signing with either the University of Mississippi or the Patriots, and aren’t a comedy act, although they could be. Smiles, jokes, and laughs come easily to the two defensive players, who competed against each other in high school growing up in Mississippi (Johnson’s team won a playoff game).
Hamilton, a defensive lineman, is from Raleigh (not North Carolina). Johnson, a linebacker, is from Philadelphia (not Pennsylvania).
“At the Combine, a coach goes, ‘So, tell me how you got from Philadelphia to Ole Miss.’ And I was like, ‘Well, it’s only two hours away,’ ” said Johnson.
Hamilton has an easier answer when asked to describe where he’s from.
“I just say, I’m from the country,” he said.
Another Patriots defensive player who proudly claims to be from the country in Mississippi is Jamie Collins, and he’s turned into one of the NFL’s best linebackers. Johnson and Hamilton would like to follow a similar path.
“To be able to live our dream, to do it somewhere so far from home, never really leaving home before, and to do it with somebody who’s in the exact same situation, you couldn’t really write a better script,” Johnson said.
Once the draft ended with neither player being selected, the Ole Miss teammates began hearing from teams. Johnson reached an agreement with the Patriots first. Ten minutes later, Hamilton joined him.
“I trust him a lot, he’s a great leader. I can talk to him at a time like this,” said Hamilton, looking at Johnson. “I come up here, I’ve never really been out of Mississippi besides with a team. I feel pretty good that I know somebody.”
On the same day Rob Gronkowski was featured on the cover of the latest issue of GQ magazine, another cover spot for the Patriots tight end was unveiled, and this one brings some history with it.
Gronkowski will be on the cover of EA Sports’ “Madden” NFL video game, one of the biggest-selling franchises in video game history. Gronkowski appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” to talk about the honor (“It’s a dream come true”), when he found out (two weeks ago), and how he’ll deal with the supposed curse that some feel is attached to the game’s cover subjects.
“It was a feel-good moment, for sure, to know that you’re going to be on the cover of ‘Madden,’ in the category of so many elite players out there that have been on it before,” Gronkowski said.
As for the curse — some players have been injured the season in which they’ve appeared on the cover, while others have played their way out of football not long after – Gronkowski pointed to recent history. The last four players to appear on the “Madden” cover are Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (2015), Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (2014), Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (2013), and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson (2012).
“It’s definitely reversed itself from back in the days,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve got to look at the players that were on it recently. You have Odell, who had an unbelievable year last year. You have Richard Sherman, who went to the Pro Bowl the year he was on it. Calvin Johnson, who broke the receiving record when he was on the cover.
“It’s the present now. It’s the future of the cover. I feel like I’ve already went through my injuries in bad times. I’m blessed to be on, and I feel like everything is going to go smoothly.”
Corner Cyrus Jones, the Patriots’ highest draft pick this year (second round, No. 60 overall), was the last of the nine-member draft class to sign his contract. He did that Thursday, a four-year, $4.006 million deal that comes with a $1.114 million signing bonus. In addition, $337,000 of his 2017 base salary is guaranteed.