FOXBORO — His NFL dreams chopped down twice by far inferior franchises, Patriots defensive lineman Chris Jones could be just days away from reaching the pinnacle.
“Certain people are looking for certain players,” said Jones. “I ended up here, a great organization and they needed me. Do your job, that’s a big thing for us, and I do what I need to do. It’s always how I’ve approached things to be successful.”
New England, Jones’ third stop in the NFL, offers the 24-year-old something he hasn’t been able to locate his entire life.
“I’ve never, ever won a championship, not in anything, not at any level in any sport,” said Jones. “I went to states in high school with the (Brownsburg, In.) track team, but I finished seventh or something like that (competing in the shot put).”
Just as Jones had mentioned the word “title,” the prized Lamar Hunt AFC Championship trophy — which goes to the victor here when the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots collide (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET) at Gillette Stadium — was being displayed across the hall to the gathered media.
Sunday, Jones gets the opportunity to finally call himself, “champ.”
“We’re in a really good place right now, playing in the AFC championship,” said Jones, who like the rest of his Patriots mates is doing his best not to look ahead of Indy and to a potential trip to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. First things things first.
“One day at a time for us,” said Jones. “This will be a great big test for us.”
Jones plays an integral role in Bill Belichick’s interior defensive line rotation. The 6-foot-2, 302-pounder moves in and out of the huddle according to situations, in tandem with future Hall-of-Famer Vince Wilfork and proven veterans Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch.
There are times Jones looks around. His locker, like himself, is situated right in the heart of the defensive line.
FROM WAIVER WIRE TO STARTER
Drafted in Round 6 in 2013 by the Houston Texans, the ex-Bowling Green University Falcon found himself looking for work only months later at the final camp cutdown.
He hooked on a spell with Tampa Bay, nine days exactly, but the Bucs waived him goodbye, leaving Belichick and the Pats to put in a claim.
“I didn’t know what to think when I got here,” said Jones, who had to have his doubts.
Houston is a decent franchise, and Tampa Bay has endured its struggles, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
If they both cast him off, what would the New England Patriots, the game’s dominating franchise for over the last 14 seasons, want with Jones?
Two full seasons, with 22 career starts, a huge field goal block to beat the Jets, and even a playoff fumble recovery last week against the Ravens later, Jones continues to demonstrate why Belichick wanted him here so badly.
Known for his toughness inside and technique playing stout against the run, this Jones is right behind his more heralded namesake, Chandler Jones, with nine sacks over the last two years.
STILL A MIDWESTERNER
To his midwest roots Jones, who grew up in Ohio and moved to Brownsburg as a sophomore in high school, remains true.
After two seasons in New England, he still manages to pronounce his “R’s.”
And somehow, the Patriots defensive tackle and his wife, Angela, who is Ohio-born-and-raised, actually found an adequate parcel of land on this Northeast corridor between metropolitan Boston and Providence to tend to their dogs, horses and pigs. Jones played his high school football in Brownsburg, Indiana, a small town of 21,000 — basically like a slightly bigger Amesbury. Brownsburg High produced an uncanny five professional athletes between 2005 and 2012. As of last May, they were all in the pros, including Jones, MLB reliever Drew Storen, pitcher Lance Lynn, catcher Tucker Barnhart and NBA guard Gordon Hayward.
But Jones is growing a soft spot for New England. He and Angela were married on the 50-yard-line at Gillette.