By Andrew Reynolds
Although the Arkansas football team has a talented field of tailbacks, they may call on an unlikely source for guidance from time to time. Senior defensive lineman Patrick Jones has learned from some of the best defenders the Razorbacks have ever had at the position like Marcus Harrison and Malcolm Sheppard; but he also knows a thing or two about carrying the football
“I played a lot of running back growing up,” Jones said. “It made me think on my toes a little more. I had to think about having quick feet to escape a tackle instead of trying to make one. Running back is such a special position, and when I see our guys take the ball I get flashbacks. It’s one of those glory positions that also have a huge impact on the game. That was the first position I truly loved, and the way I first learned to play the game. I played it my whole life coming up. That was me.”
Jones, a 6-1 defensive tackle from Hampton, Ga., saw plenty of reps in the backfield growing up. In fact, he rushed for over 2,000 yards in seventh and eighth grade before moving to the defensive side of the ball in high school.
“I played against some good competition down there in Georgia,” Jones said. “The intensity is not much different than what we have here. Obviously, the level of play is stepped up, but playing in that kind of environment definitely prepared me to play here.”
Jones then made his way to Arkansas, where he spent a lot of time honing his craft.
“I sat back and watched some of the best like Marcus (Harrison), Earnest (Mitchell) and Malcolm (Sheppard),” Jones said. “There comes a point when you want your shot, but when those guys were out there producing, they were helping the team and that’s what matters in the bigger picture. Not to mention, watching what they did on a day-to-day basis made me a better player.”
Along with the former Hogs, Jones’ father, Ricky, who lettered in football at Valdosta State in 1976, had a lot to do with his progression as an athlete. Jones does say, however, that he never felt any pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My dad always kept an open mind when it came to me playing football,” Jones said. “He never put any pressure on me, but when I fell in love with the sport, he always encouraged me to be my best. He wanted me to be better than he was. I don’t think it was something he wanted to force me into, but once I got into it, he pushed me big time.”
Jones parlayed his will and determination into scholarship offers from schools like Mississippi State, Kentucky, Troy, Auburn and Western Michigan, but chose Arkansas with the intention of competing for a championship.
“Arkansas really appealed to me throughout the recruiting process,” Jones said. “Of course, when I was being recruited, (Darren) McFadden and those guys were making a run toward an SEC and national championship. I knew I wanted to get an opportunity to play on that kind of a stage. It was just a good fit for me, and the decision was the right one.”
Winning that championship is something that is on the mind of Jones and his teammates. That desire has translated into a mentality that has been evident on the practice field.
“Coach Petrino has been using the high reps in practice just to prepare us and get our mind right,” Jones said. “I think we’re starting to get used to it, but the same time he’s using a lot of different guys and trying to keep our bodies fresh. It feels like we’re getting more done in less time. We are more focused than we’ve ever been, and practices are the most efficient I’ve seen them since coming here.
“Collectively, beyond wanting to be number one in the country and win a title, our goal is to go out every day and execute and give 100 percent. That’s why we put in the work day in and day out. When people see Arkansas play we want them to walk away thinking ‘those guys really come for business.’ We want to send a message that says we are a top team, because we know we are.”
Though he may not get any reps at tailback this season, Jones is ready to contribute in what many believe will be a starting role. No matter what his position on the field may be, Jones knows he has a responsibility to do whatever is necessary to help the Razorbacks win football games.
“Regardless of the position, I think everyone has the same mindset once they get in the game and that’s to produce, whether you started or came off the bench.”