INDIANAPOLIS -- When it comes to handling adversity, former University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones is used to overcoming challenges.
After an All-American career Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., Jones committed to play football for the University of Southern California, but just eight games into his career, it looked as though a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, would derail his dreams of playing college and professional football.
“I was just a young freshman,” Jones said at 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. “They were just telling me, ‘You can’t play football anymore.’ Eight games out of high school, that was devastating. That was kind of heartbreaking for me being 2,000 miles from home, going to USC to play football and them telling me I can’t play. I was a bit lost.”
Not one to accept that his career was going to end in a doctor’s office or a training room, Jones took the necessary medical tests and transferred to Georgia to play for coach Mark Richt.
“They sent out my medical stuff to different spine specialists and they thought I was fine,” Jones said of the Georgia medical staff. “The whole year I red-shirted, I did the rehab to protect myself, building up my neck, building up my shoulders, building my technique on the field, keeping my head up, seeing what I hit. I did a great job of it.”
Jones registered 70 total tackles, 13.5 sacks for 90 lost yards, two forced fumbles and 49 quarterback pressures in 2011. He followed that up with 14 sacks and another All-American season in 2012.
“Most of the doctors checked me out and they feel that I’m fine,” Jones said of the NFL evaluation. “I don’t have a contusion or anything like that in it. I’ve only had one accident of having a stinger at USC. I never had any symptoms after that. I played through two years of SEC football, red-shirted, practiced every day and never had any symptoms. I feel like I’m healthy. The doctors feel like I’m healthy, so I’m excited.”
As far as worrying about future injuries based on his diagnosis of spinal stenosis, Jones has been proactive with his workouts in order to prevent further injury. Jones is hoping the preparation and precautions he has taken will help him reach a level of success in the NFL.
“Anybody who steps on that field has a chance of getting hurt,” Jones said. “If you think about that, nobody should play football. I’m just taking advantage of my opportunities. I love this game. I’m passionate about it, and I’m going to take advantage when I’ve got a chance to. I know I’ve got to be careful about my technique and how I play this game. Therefore, I do the extra stuff, protecting my neck, protecting my shoulders, building up my shoulders, and all the extra stuff I can do to prevent myself from being injured.
“I feel like I’m an impact player. I make plays. I love the game of football. I’m a great leader, not much a vocal leader, but showing. I think I can bring some versatility to the team; I can play Sam linebacker; I can play Will linebacker. I can play 3-4; I can play 4-3. I’m just going to get after it. I’m going to get after the quarterback every play.”