MOBILE, Ala. — As the final day of the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl practices concluded on Thursday heading into Saturday’s game, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones finished off his final session joking with players and coaches on the sidelines.
It’s nothing that Crimson Tide fans haven’t seen before.
While at Alabama, Jones developed the nickname ‘Joker’ from his teammates due to his laid-back energy and humorous manner on the field. The moniker ultimately spread to the fanbase, causing him — along with his successes on the field — to quickly become a fan-favorite, just like Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa before him.
When asked where he got his fun nature on the gridiron, Jones credited his father.
“I’d say my dad,” Jones said. “He makes everything fun and he’s always told me to play football and to play sports to have fun and yeah. So I just try to have fun with my teammates. I don’t really know a lot of these guys and I got to know a lot of them this week. I’ve seen some of them in college and high school but you’re with a whole different group of guys and all of them are awesome and they all have their own little personalities and you just get to bond with people.
"That’s kind of the best part about sports and that’s another big reason why I wanted to be here was just to hang out be with a different group of guys than I’m used to.”
Jones came into Senior Bowl week as the top quarterback among the teams’ rosters. Currently, Jones is projected to be one of the first five quarterbacks off the board at the NFL Draft in late April, a testament to his solid campaign with the Crimson Tide that ultimately led to the team’s 18th national title.
When asked why he came to the Senior Bowl (Saturday, 1:30 p.m. CT, NFL Network) rather than letting his actions last season speak for themselves like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields have opted to do, Jones said that his decision wasn’t because he felt like he needed to prove anything.
“I don’t think I needed to prove anything,” Jones said after the conclusion of Thursday’s final Senior Bowl practice. “The tape is the tape and I did what I did and obviously I had a great team but I just wanted to come and kinda learn more about NFL football and learn a new playbook which I’ve done a good job with.
"I understand all the plays and it’s all the same plays. It’s just the verbiage and wordage is kind of a little different so I kind of just wanted to get those reps of the microphone and be in the huddle and as each day went on I got better.”
Since 2017, Jones sat on the bench as a backup quarterback behind Hurts and Tagovailoa. Both quarterbacks obviously rose to college football stardom, with Hurts transferring to Oklahoma in the process and both players growing to become two of the most popular Crimson Tide players in recent memory.
After Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated and fractured hip to end his 2019 season, Jones came in as his replacement. While his numbers were not necessarily astronomical, Jones still led Alabama to a 4-1 record if you count the Mississippi State game in which Tagovailoa was injured.
While many other talented quarterbacks might have transferred after sitting behind Hurts and Tagovailoa, Jones chose to stay.
“I think patience is a virtue,” Jones said. “I think a lot of people might have transferred but it’s just personal preference and for me I just felt like I wasn’t where I wanted to be as a player so I kind of had to improve and find a way to help out the team and I just learned a grew, competed and I had good days and I had bad days. A lot of people helped me out but I kind of just grew up myself as well.”
As evidenced by his remarkable 2020 season, Jones choosing to stay was the right choice. A 13-0 season, a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist later, and Jones is now the hottest quarterback at this year’s Senior Bowl.
Jones rolled his left ankle in the final hour of Thursday’s practice, causing some concern regarding whether or not be will be able to play in Saturday’s game. While missing the game could slightly impact his draft stock, most likely him missing the game won’t play a factor. For now, Jones will remain focused on meeting with NFL teams and will leave the decision to play up to the coaches.
Jones revealed on Thursday that he has met with the staff of the New England Patriots, the Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints. He has most likely met with others staffs as well, but those were the three he highlighted. Jones would be a solid fit at all three programs, so it will be interesting to see where he lands after the draft.
For now, Jones will simply have to wait.
In the three practice sessions at the Senior Bowl, Jones has impressed many NFL scouts. While he started Tuesday's first practice a little rusty, he has done nothing but improve since, throwing balls with pinpoint accuracy and showing stellar leadership and pocket presence on the field.
Jones has been working with the American team this week, led by Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule. The Panthers are also in need of a quarterback, and with the team having the No. 8 pick in the draft, Jones could possibly end up there should the organization decide that he is the best fit for their program.
So far, Rhule said that he has enjoyed everything about what Jones has brought to the table this past week.
“I’ve been really impressed with who he is,” Rhule said to the media on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been impressed with his character, his moxie, his swag. I mean, he’s got it all. You can see why his teammates follow him. He’s got a great way with other people. He’s been a really productive quarterback, and I think he’s shown a lot of things that he can do this week. He’s really smart. He’s accurate. He can move his feet. He can slide in the pocket.
"For me, getting to know him, I can see why everyone raves about him and why he’s had the success he’s had.”
Jones revealed that following the Crimson Tide’s victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship over Ohio State, he took three to four days off before beginning preparing for the Senior Bowl. In fact, he conducted most of his training for the game down in Mobile, away from school. Despite him not necessarily having a need to come perform in front of NFL scouts, Jones does not regret his decision to come display his talent as the draft approaches.
“I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m super happy that I came,” Jones said.