He stood far down on the map of the deepest Alabama, where the sun never comes out. Mac Jones’ most urgent concern at the time was to make Nick Saban’s defense a better and more formidable one that had won the Championship five times in nine seasons.
Jones was well aware of his role as quarterback for the scouting team for this particular exercise: Hail Mary, keep the ball low, no matter what, no questions. But none of the players in that terrifying championship defense had the support of his friend Derek Keefe, so why not, Jones thought.
Jones threw a flat screen in front of Keefe and then ran to a wide receiver. In a smart move Keefe sent the ball back to Jones, who sent it to the end zone (practice area) and scored. Jones threw the ball and then looked up.
Saban, the straw hat in place, ran across the field, as crimson and angry as the band around the hat.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Let’s say young Mack Jones has been on the scouting team since Jones. Mickey Welch/Montgomery Advertiser/Imagine.
In the next ten minutes I am ABSOLUTELY destroyed by Coach Saban, said Jones, who is now about three years away from the reckless crimes of his youth. (Read: first year.) Everyone remembers and I’m very embarrassed.
Then he barks with laughter. Or laugh at the bark. He’s barking.
They must have heard the barking, or at least heard about it. It was he who inspired former Alabama offensive lineman Richie Petitbone to make the Joker Jones double. Like the Joker, all volcanic laughter and convulsive eruptions of movement and general hilarity. He’s got that big, stupid smile on his face, Petitbone says. I mean, this is huge.
I bet you’re thinking right now, this guy? Is this the joker (pun clearly meant) that Saban burned when he was a Boy Scout, who allegedly also had the guts to talk to Saban and who lived to tell the story? Survive to become a starter…. No, Stern… A quarterback in the 2020 season?
Indeed, Mack Jones is a brave and original quarterback who in this decisive year is winning hearts, minds and many historical records for him in Alabama. And it’s a brave and distinctive quarterback that could lead Tide out of the National Wilderness Championship – a period of almost three years without a title, the equivalent of a drought in Tuscaloosa. The investigation begins in earnest on Saturday with SEC championship games and Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask of Heisman caliber in the game.
Jones’ fondness for waxing the infamous Nick Saban Laid Back skins was not uncommon, and not just for Nick Saban. Neither Petitbone, nor Miller Forristall, the senior in the red shirt from Alabama, remember exactly the fiasco of Hail Mary that still makes Jones blush today because his pranks have made everyone bleed over the years.
It sounds like something that’s happened more than once, Petitbone says.
Many days ago I remember Coach Saban yelling at Mac, Forristal agreed. Or shouted by the defense. He loved it.
Why does Forristal say that?
A big smile on his face? He explains it slowly and with false condescension, as if the question itself is so obvious that it seems absurd.
It is this smile and its overall mischievous facade that reveals the secret of Mac Jones’ timeless and disarming charm. And why, even if he drives the defense or Saban crazy, his goals don’t stay that way for long. Mac’s pretty stupid, Forristall says. He’s very stupid, says DeVonta Smith, senior wide receiver from Alabama. He’s a clown, said California Jackson, who’s known Jones since he was a 15-year-old 7-on-7 fighter and avoids any uncertainty.
Mac Jones isn’t laughing, he’s beeping. He’s not dancing, he’s spraying. He doesn’t say flip-flop, he’s a talker and a cheese at the same time.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mack Jones may not look like one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but he has a perfect 10-0 record as Alabama’s starting quarterback this season. Kent Gidley.
So here’s this guy, this joker who never… He never seemed to be part of QB1. Jones’ father, Gordon, was a professional tennis player at the time; he played qualifiers at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, and his trademark was a powerful and heartbreaking service. He’s a giant, even now in the ’60s, who can more easily pass for a quarterback than his son, a real star quarterback. Mac? It was a bean. Skinny Jack Lundgren, Jones’ high school teammate and good friend, was critical the first time he saw him. A skinny child who became a less skinny, but still not impressive man, six feet tall and weighing 214 pounds. Let’s just say Cam Newton doesn’t do that kind of physical growth. More like Tom Brady… circa 2000, NFL Scouting Combine, short-sleeved shirt, cheese, shot put, no muscle in sight. The resemblance is so strange that Jones once tweeted a portrait of herself next to Brady’s beautiful combination photo.
And it’s this non-physical miracle that challenges the fastest man on the team to a race, discusses how he’s going to leave the fastest man in the dust, and then blinks.
In other words: Jones is part of the joke. He’s different and he knows it. He’s unconventional and he accepts it.
When asked to put himself in the context of the other quarterback phenomena of 2020 – Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields and Trask – Jones offers an open review: These guys can probably all throw better than me, and some of them can run faster than me. I wouldn’t say I have a very impressive set of physical characteristics. Then he barks.
And after Alabama embarrassed the state of Mississippi 41-0 in October, he went on the podium with Smith and explained why he jumped headfirst at the end of a particular race. I could have bounced outside, I guess. But I’m not very fast.
I don’t know, I don’t know…
I don’t know if I could have made it.
Meanwhile, Smith, who sat to his left, began to smile and lower his head to laugh at himself.
You see, Jones is different and unconventional, but he doesn’t know it and he doesn’t accept it. He kissed her… And it’s a strange and seductive alchemy that makes everyone want to kiss her. (In fact, his teammates follow him, making him a bit of a cross between a cute mascot and a boring but precious little brother. He’s just an eccentric, you know? Says Petitbone.) The result is the image of a charming, clumsy and nervously talented 22-year-old with the serious and very interesting vibes of a university footballer. He is known, in no particular order, for his wise investment advice, his natural talent as a salsa dancer and his eclectic and encyclopaedic understanding of all musical genres. His friends and family assure him that he is a real renaissance man pretending to be a football star.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mac Jones has dug deep into his old playbooks, so he’s ready to keep DeVonta Smith and John Metchey III happy this season. UA Athletics / College Get Photos
Mac Jones speaks Mandarin!
Fact-checking: usually true. He learned the language in his senior year at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, where he grew up, and he wasn’t even the first Jones to do so. He followed in the footsteps of his older sister, Sarah Jane, and they spoke Chinese like a secret code when they wanted to talk about their parents in front of them. He let his skills rust in Tuscaloosa, but he can probably still cover the bases. I play soccer in Alabama, says Jones, and gives Jones an example of what he can say in Mandarin. I’d like a glass of water.
Mac Jones was a model child!
Fact-checking : I’m sure that’s true. It has appeared in local ads – for the zoo, the medical center, Party City, and in recent years around Halloween. His legacy is still alive, thanks to a few pictures from ten years ago that still greet visitors at Adventure Landing, a water entertainment, miniature golf and bonanza go-cart complex near Jacksonville Beach. Look it up: He is a child with hair so blond that it is practically white, and a smile that is so wide that it looks like he is flexing the muscles in his face. Jones gave up modeling when it became impossible to balance this side of the business with the increasing demands of football, but he was a real fan and was happy to perform, says his mother, Holly.
If his model days are behind him, his ham days aren’t. In the off-season, during the first confusing months of the pandemic when everyone was sent home, Jones returned to Jacksonville for quarantine. Three or four times a week, he went to nearby Plantation Park to play soccer with the quarterback coach and a handful of friends from the city, and on one of those days, the coach gave the student a reminder. Find the laces first. Don’t forget to find the laces before you rip them off.
Jones smiles at the call, the signal’s ready. Why are you looking for laces when I’m throwing a diynium?
Fault! The file name is not specified. Mack Jones has impressed analysts this season with his willingness to throw ball after ball. UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images
MAC JONES is a better coin thrower this season than all his contemporaries in 2020.
Correction: This season, Mack Jones is flipping a coin better than his contemporaries. He threw 10 touchdown passes in 10 games thrown from the field – 30 yards or more. Lawrence in eight games? 5.
I really like the touch, placement of the ball and trajectory of those vertical kicks, ESPN design guru Todd McShay wrote days after Jones threw for 291 yards to lead Alabama to 41 points against Mississippi State. Those 291 yards? It’s below Jones’ 2020 standards. His two 400-yard races over three weeks in October set a record in Alabama).
McShay’s counterpart, Mel Kiper Jr. says it’s this addition to Jones’ game – the deep ball – that has impressed him most this year. And not just Jones’ ability to lead him. His ruthless will to lead him.
It takes a certain amount of courage to try to throw one deep ball after another. But if Jones is a deep ball maestro, if he looks like he’s floating in the water, it’s only because you don’t see him furiously crawling into the water just below the surface. He recruits his girlfriend Sophie Scott to visit the Alabama office late at night to play with the team while he draws cards. (Dallas, Nebraska, 37, 59 left, right, third team!) Gordon scores when he explains the ritual of preparing the duo for the match). When Hulst visited Tuscaloosa, at her request she had taken her son’s reader with her and found her guest room full of playbooks. Jones has indexed and read all the pieces he acquired during his career in Alabama. And in the off-season, when Jones was doing his self-examination, he looked at the reception in Tuscaloosa – Smith and John Metchey III and Jaylen Weddle – at the troop of great wizards and concluded that he wants to take advantage of these deep threats by improving his deep ball.
Jones called his former quarterback coach Joe Dickinson, who then flew from his hometown in Oklahoma to Tuscaloosa in February for a day-long deep ball festival. They practiced not to push too far, not to block the front knee so the ball wouldn’t float. They watched the film and asked his recipients to plan their routes. They were working. They worked, worked and worked, so you see the pitch that Dickinson – Coach D for his students – brought to Quell in the second game of the season in Alabama against Texas A&M. Coach D believes it was the first touchdown of the day that caught his eye – a 38-yard arc pass to Metchy who was caught by the receiver’s crotch and then passed Metchy in the end zone for another 40 yards. Jones threw an 87-yard pass to Waddle in the third quarter and Metchi threw a 63-yard pass, also in the fourth quarter. The fact is, all these bombs are beginning to interfere with a first world problem.
But what Coach D especially liked about this 38-yard shot (he’s pretty sure) is that he got Metchy on the first pitch. No fuss, no fuss, no fuss.
The shot you like to watch as a coach is the shot in which you completely unloaded the wide receiver, he says. His boys can handle a lot of stress. But if you take the stress off them, the whole quarterback is at stake.
Fault! The file name is not specified. If everything goes according to plan, Jones and Alabama will laugh again this season. Kevin K. Cox/Getty Images
However, it didn’t matter that it was a quarterback who achieved this level of success.
In the days of the Boy Scouts, when his only claim to fame was his ability to evaluate a head coach, Jones would warm up on the field before the games to find his mother armed with a camera, taking a steady stream of pictures for posterity. She estimates she has thousands of these photos. She wasn’t sure if he would see the field before a match, so she thought if he came on the field for a warm-up, it would be fine for a photo shoot.
Don’t make fun of me! Holly remembers calling the others names for her zeal. I’m taking a picture of my baby getting warm!
Jones’ parents heard glamorous predictions about the future of Mac, lucky ones who predicted great success for their young son. Scott Loeffler, Tom Brady’s confidant, saw young Jones at camp and told Gordon that Mack would play on Sunday. John Lundgren, father of John’s teammate Jack, played golf in Notre Dame and swore that Jones was the quarterback with whom the older Lundgren played a pickup game in the snow in South Bend. A quarterback named Joe Montana.
But Jones blossomed late, with physical stature and success, which may explain why he seems to be a legendary talker behind closed doors, albeit a stupid one, but always more inclined to self-mockery than self-satisfaction in nature.
I don’t do much flashy, he says. (Bark-laughs.)
Jones finds his deep ball striking. The truth is, he’s between a quarterback who’s always been electric and a quarterback who should be. He followed Tua Tagovailoa, perhaps the best passer-by in the history of Tuscaloosa, and had to fend off Bryce Young, the best quarterback in high school in 2020. For the time being he is playing a season in which his total CBI of 96.0 is not only excellent in Alabama. It’s on its way to becoming the best brand in the history of statistics, period.
In the middle of all this is this eccentric and daring quarterback who has become more than just a filler between the greats. Mack Jones is throwing bombs all the way to the Heisman Trophy Invitational.
Fault! The file name is not specified. 1 A9 Jones idolized Tim Tebow as a child, and now he has the chance to join the former Gator in one of the world’s most prestigious clubs. The Polite Jones family.
After Tim Tebow was crowned winner of the Heisman 2007, he received his trophy during a rally in his hometown. An 11-year-old aspiring soccer player, Mac Jones, harassed his parents until they agreed to drag him and his sister to The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville so they could see the grandeur of the city. Mac was the third of three kids, so he often had to do this – beg for things, including attention. Before that, he played the game of costumes with his big sister’s friends. Warning.
They stood in line for two hours to be near Tebow, this trophy and this glory, because Jones loved Tebow in this unique way at the age of 11. So, when your teacher assigns you an essay, the only possible subject in your 11-year-old brain is Tim Tebow’s Promise Speech, in which he swore to Florida Gators fans, after losing Ole Miss in 2008, that no one would work harder than him not to lose again.
So the Joneses crawled across the line, and then Mack approached the Heisman Trophy. Ten years before he had a chance to make a living, he stood behind that stiff bronze arm and smiled with his big, stupid smile. He barely scratched Tebow’s shoulder.
We didn’t even talk much, Jones remembers. It was like, oh, my God. He’s over there.
The fact that his trip to the mall didn’t… or at least it wasn’t real, ….. Jones’ only flirtation with Heisman’s glory is still a novelty, although three months and ten games in the 2020 season are still ahead. For Jones. For the Jones family.
Prior to the 400-yard games and the deep exploits, he was only a quarterback for the scout team with some momentum. Now he is Heisman’s rival of Panacea, and he is close enough to the sun that it is possible, perhaps even probable, that a child somewhere whispers a familiar chorus out loud. Oh, my God, Mac Jones is there.