During the most-recent free agency, the Tennessee Titans signed center Ben Jones to a four-year, $17.5 million dollar contract. Jones had played the previous four seasons with the Houston Texans.
Jones immediately brings experience to Tennessee.
In Week 1 of 2015, the Titans’ starting front five — Taylor Lewan, Byron Bell, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack, Jeremiah Poutasi — averaged just 2.4 years of NFL experience. It makes sense that Jones is now the second-most tenured offensive lineman on the Titans’ roster, behind only Byron Bell.
Alongside experience, Jones brings leadership.
In fact, Jones has already guided both Marcus Mariota and younger members of the offensive line.
“[Jones has] really helped me understand where my pressure looks are,” said Mariota, “where I can kind of slide the protection or get out of certain [situations].”
“If [younger linemen] need help on the playbook, or anything else, on or off the field, they know they can come to me,” Jones said. “Because sometimes you don’t want to ask the coach every question.”
Jones — much like DeMarco Murray — is a unique player on the Titans’ roster: a new member of the team as well as a leader. According to Jones, this balance comes naturally. He simply conducts himself as he did in high school, college, and Houston.
“What’s gotten me here today; that’s what I’ve carried over here,” Jones said. “You don’t change your ways for different teams or anything else. You are who you are, and the reason I’m here is because of who I am.”
So Jones has remained true to his character during his departure from Houston and arrival to Tennessee. What, then, can we expect from the center during the next four seasons — aside from experience and leadership?
For starters, a loyal teammate.
Jets’ running back Zac Stacy praised Jones for his commitment to teammates in high school. Stacy knows Jones well since the two played football in Bibb County of Centerville, Alabama.
“I’ve known Ben pretty much my whole life,” Stacy said. “In high school, Ben used to pick me up from school every day. I used to live on the other side of town and he used to come all the way across town to pick me up and he’d pick up other guys at the school. He had a Ford truck, a big pick-up truck, and he used to come get us every day. He’d round us all up and we’d go.”
Second, a quirky teammate.
Jones is known for being “crazy” at times. According to Stacy, Jones carried out almost any eating bet in high school.
“I think he has pretty much eaten anything you can think of except maybe glass. Everyone used to bet him in high school to eat stuff and he’s eaten cockroaches and spiders, worms, grass – you name it. He doesn’t care.”
Jones even went as far to drink his own urine when with the Texans.
“It was my own [urine],” Jones said as he recounted the story to a Texans’ reporter. “It kind of caught me off guard. It was a drug test day, and I walked out, and K Jax [Kareem Jackson] said, ‘that looks like apple juice.’ And I was like, ‘How much will you pay me to drink this?’ They threw out a number, and I just knocked it on back.”
Third, an occasionally barefoot teammate.
Be on the lookout for Jones’ feet next season, as the center enjoys walking onto the field without socks or shoes before games. The habit originates from Jones’ high school days, and he has continued to do so since.
“In high school, we’d always take a nap before we walked the field,” Jones told University of Georgia reporters. “I didn’t have my shoes on, so I’d wake up, [and] we’d just walk straight out. I didn’t want to put the hassle of putting socks and shoes back on … I just kind of kept it going because we had a good senior year.”
To this day, regardless of the weather — rain, sleet, snow, et cetera — Jones walks the field barefoot with his “alligator skin feet” before games. He admits that the snow of Cleveland was cold in 2014 and that the rain of Chicago was cold his rookie season, but Jones held true to tradition regardless.
So far, Jones has shown loyalty to the Titans. He and Mariota have a budding friendship, as the two have played golf together several times, and reports indicate that Jones gets along well with players and coaches.
And while I am not inside the Titans’ facilities to confidently know whether Jones has shown his humor or proclivity for barefootedness, it is safe to assume that we will see both during the 2016 season.