On the last day of interviews at the 2022 NFL Combine, the defensive backs were set to take the stand this morning. While many of the media members that were still in attendance hit up some of the bigger-named prospects, I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Houston DB/KR/PR Marcus Jones. Jones had a prolific career at Houston as well as when he started out at Troy, being a dynamic return specialist with nine taken back to the house in his college career as well as his ability to take the ball away, having nine INTs as well.
Given his skill set and versatility on defense and return prowess, I felt that he was a guy being slept on coming out of the AAC that could fit what the Steelers are looking for in a nickel cornerback.
JH: Hey Marcus, what is up? How you doing?
MJ: I’m good, how you doing?
JH: I’m doing really, really well. How’s this whole week treating you right now?
MJ: It’s been treating me well. It’s definitely an experience. I never thought that, you know, that I would be here, you know, being a small guy and everything like that over the years and everything, but it’s just a great experience to be able to see all the all the things that are happening.
JH: Have the meetings been going pretty long for you? Just long days, long nights; has it’s been a pretty draining process mentally?
MJ: Ya but it’s exciting. So, it’s not one of those situations to where you don’t want to be here and everything like that. It is definitely something that I’m not gonna forget.
JH: Absolutely. have you walked out of any of your meetings, saying like whether it could be the coaching staff or just the scheme. You’re just walking out feeling really good to be like, Man, I’m really, really excited about that meeting.
MJ: Every meeting that I’ve had I have felt pretty good about.
JH: Yeah, I get that. I have to ask, have you spoken to the Steelers at all? Whether it could be a formal sit down meeting or just an informal meeting with the position coach?
MJ: Nah, I haven’t sat down with them formally yet, but informally I have.
JH: Absolutely. Talk a little bit about your versatility, watching your tape and just seeing your ability to play inside, play outside, travel with the guy play off coverage, just what you bring to a team and how you can wear so many different hats.
MJ: Basically, you know, anything the team needs I’m down for it. Whether it’s in the return game or you know playing corner or playing offense, I just always pride myself in trying to be very versatile in everything I’ve done.
JH:Talk a little bit about that kick return that you had with about 32 seconds left at the end of the game where you ended up housing it.
MJ: The SMU game, ya. It was a crazy game for sure. You know it was going back and forth the whole time, but I was back there and coaches were like, “return it, you know, no matter where you at” and everything and whenever they kicked it. I didn’t know that they were going to kick it straight to me, you know, I would definitely say that it was an iconic memory.
JH: For sure. I’m guessing a lot of special teams coaches have maybe been talking to you during this process and just seeing that you could probably be able to return kicks obviously but maybe punts as well at the next level as well?
MJ: Yeah, I’m definitely cool with that. You know, I like punt returning, kickoff returning, so wherever they need me to be to be at I will be at.
JH: Absolutely. How is your shoulder feeling with it in a sling right now?
MJ: My shoulder is doing good. I had this surgery ten weeks ago. So I are had this one done and I had this one done two weeks ago. So I had to get both cleaned up and as I have been playing with it for about three years. So yeah, I had to overcome that adversity a little bit and everything, but I’m definitely excited about getting them fixed and feeling good again.
JH: What’s your ETA on that? Going to be ready and back for camp probably?
MJ: I’ll be back for training camp.
JH: So, you were saying that you didn’t know you’d be in this position because you were a smaller guy. But yet, when you watch yourself play, whether it be coming downhill against the run, or when you’re playing bigger receivers, you really show off the ability that you play much bigger than your size. Are you kind of showing that to teens and having them reference the tape with that?
MJ: Oh, for sure. I definitely always talk about the heart you know? It‘s not always about the height and everything like that. It’s all about the heart of a lion so it’s definitely on film you know? Coaches definitely tell me that, you know, I’m not scared to stick my nose in it so I just always pride myself on toughness.
JH: Have you been talking to coaches about whether or not you play more inside or outside being a versatile guy? Do you think that you can exceed at either spot?
MJ: Yes, for sure. I definitely like inside though, covering in the slot using my speed to run with the guys like Tyreek Hill and everything. So I definitely take on the challenge.
JH: And you got that speed to run with those guys, right?
MJ: Oh, for sure.
JH: Who’s the toughest guy that you faced this season, and then just in general over your time at Houston?
MJ: I’ll definitely say vs. Tech (Samuel Emilus) being a big guy and everything. So that game basically taught me how to play with my strengths. You know, with big guys I don’t have to touch them as much, you know, make sure I’m in the right position to where I can play the ball. So that was one thing I’m definitely working on planning against these guys.
JH: When you’re going through the week, do you often reference film in and study your opponent and who you’re going against? If it’s a bigger guy, if it’s guy that wins with more speed and quickness? And what’s your process as you go through the week to prepare for that game and the guy you’re facing?
MJ: It always varies. First off, if it is a bigger guy, I always try to work on being in the right position to where I can play the ball better. On smaller guy and sometimes there’ll be a slot so I’ll be playing a slot that week. So it definitely varies when you play different positions like safety or in a phone booth. So, I’m always trying to see what’s the tendencies and what the receiver likes to do and go from there.
JH: I had to ask so J. Elliott, right?
MJ: Elliott J., ya.
JH: Haha yeah, so I’ve gone through a couple pieces of your music. Talk a little bit about the music that you produce, and I just saw this last album that came out what was a couple months ago.
MJ: Yeah. Complications.
JH: Complications. Dude, there’s you got some fire on that album, man.
MJ: Yeah, basically I produce pop music, R&B, anything of that nature. I’m actually working on a 80s album, so I’ve been really working on that recently. On the complications album, what I want to do is just basically show people that I’m not only a, you know, a football player, but I also make good music as well. So it was just one of those situations to where I wanted to make pop, R&B show people that I could definitely make music.
JH: Have you always been in the music going back to your days as a kid?
MJ: Oh ya, for sure! I actually record a whole bunch of stuff in my room and produce it and everything.
JH: Who inspires you as an artist? Like you were talking about the 80s. was like Michael Jackson or some other people?
MJ: Michael Jackson, for sure. The Weeknd I like the Weeknd cuz he has the modern feel but also has the 80s vibe and the vintage color. and also Drake; I love Drake too.
JH: I love Drake man! Anything specific from Drake? One or two songs that kind of like stick out to you whether it be the old Drake or new Drake?
MJ: Stick out songs? I like the song “You With Me?” I like that song and definitely “One Dance.” You know? Different type of genres.
JH: Alright, appreciate you, man.
MJ: No problem. Thank you for interviewing me.
I personally loved talking to Marcus Jones and his demeanor, being so personable and having great facial expressions while being genuinely engaged in the conversation. He showed me that he is incredibly bright, referencing specific ways that he goes through game preparation and how he plays different positions or play different style receivers. He has been one of the best returners in college football that last four seasons and he has even showcased his ability to play as a wide receiver on offense, displaying impressive footwork and route running chops paired with sure hands that we see when he takes the ball away on defense.
People may be sacred away by his size and the shoulder recovery he is going through as a smaller defensive back, but given his ability to make plays both inside and outside as well as his willingness to come downhill and be physical against the run game, I personally would say that the lack of ideal size is worth a shot at the end of Day Two or the beginning of Day Three.
When I initially saw clips of Jones, my mind went to Avery Williams from Boise State who got picked in the 5th Round last season by the Falcons. However, Jones is a much better cover man that Williams was and could be the ideal replacement for Mike Hilton at the nickel spot where he references that he would be best at the next level. He may not bring the same amazing play against the run like Hilton did at the spot, but he isn’t any slouch in that facet either and probably is a better cover man than Hilton was.
Over the course of the pre-draft process, I became a fan of Marcus Jones the football player. Coming away from the interview, I became a fan of Marcus Jones the person. Whether it be shutting down receivers in the slot, returning kicks and punts for touchdowns, or producing straight fire with his music albums, I have a good feeling that Jones will be successful at whatever he sets his mind to in his professional career. I personally hope it’s in Pittsburgh, hoping he can overtake the stigma of being a football player and artist at the same time that Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown made.
Adding his ballhawking instincts with Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary and having him be the guy for Danny Smith on special teams return units is a tantalizing thought that I would personally love to see become a reality.
What are your thoughts on Marcus Jones and his interview? Do you have a problem with athletes pursuing outside activities like producing music, or you in support of them diversifying their interests outside of football? Would you like to see Jones wear Black and Gold? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!