Nov. 19, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Christian Jones has always felt at home at Florida State. But on the field the Seminoles' star defender has been a nomad, bouncing from position to position during his nearly four full seasons filling various roles with his speed, athleticism and playmaking ability.
Jones is an FSU legacy.
His father, Willie, Sr., played for former `Noles coach Bobby Bowden in the 1970s before his older brother, Willie, Jr., played for Bowden in the 2000s. Christian Jones' father was inducted into the FSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988 in honor of a collegiate career that turned him into a second-round NFL Draft selection and eventual Super Bowl Champion with the Oakland Raiders.
Needless to say, Christian Jones grew up on Florida State football. And with Saturday set to mark the final game he will ever play in the same stadium that served as the home for both his father and brother, it will be a special, reflective event for the entire Jones family.
"It flies by," Christian Jones said. "I have loved every minute of my time at FSU. I see my dad's name on the wall here in the Hall of Fame and I am always motivated to be as great as he was. I always wanted to grow up and be like my dad. He's such a great support to me coming to home away games, talking to me on the phone a few times a week.
"I love my dad for that."
Willie Jones, Sr. has seen his son's FSU career come circle, and the home part of that journey will conclude against Idaho with Christian playing the same position as his fellow FSU family members.
After starting his career as a first-time starter in 2011 at strong-side linebacker, Jones moved to weak-side linebacker in 2013. In that time span he started 27 consecutive games and thought strongly about leaving early for the NFL last spring. The hiring of a new defensive coordinator and a move to middle linebacker where he could further showcase his immense ability kept Christian Jones at home.
But five games after moving into this role, Christian Jones was asked to make a change. Coaches wanted him back at strong-side linebacker -- a familiar position title, for sure, but with a completely different role in Jeremy Pruitt's defensive scheme. In this `Noles defense, Christian Jones is a pass rusher -- a defensive end, just like Willie, Sr. and Willie, Jr.
"Christian, I mean he's 6-4, 240-250 [pounds] like an Amazon," FSU defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel said. "He can play anywhere on the field with that athletic ability."
Fellow `Noles linebacker Telvin Smith has said that FSU's coaches are like chess players, moving pieces around a board to strategically increase their chance at achieving victory. "Christian is so strong coming off the edge," Smith said this week. "That move helped the defense so much. The coaches know what they are doing."
The statistics -- and the impact -- certainly reflect that notion.
Christian Jones' first game in his new role as pass-rush specialist occurred against Maryland earlier this season -- a Doak Campbell Stadium affair that ended in a 63-0 `Noles' victory. Since then, Pruitt's new strong-side linebacker has generated two sacks, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, has an interception, a forced interception and has left a trail of quarterbacks in his wake. His move also put redshirt sophomore linebacker Terrance Smith into a starting role where he has flourished.
In the day's leading up to each FSU football game, Christian Jones has been impacting his teammates on the practice fields, too.
"When we go against them at practice, I hate when he's at d-end," FSU running back James Wilder, Jr. said. "He's so powerful. He has the strength of a huge d-end but the speed of a linebacker so there's not much you can really do against him."
Saturday, Christian Jones will rush the passer like his father did inside the house that Bowden built for the final time.
"I know my dad has enjoyed watching me play these four years and I know he's excited I'm playing i0n a defensive end role like he did," Christian Jones said. "I am the kind of guy that is willing to play anywhere on the field and that's what I have done here.
"I came here just wanting to play and that's what I've done."