GREEN BAY, Wis. – Caleb Jones quietly has been one of the big stories of Green Bay Packers training camp.
“Big” being the operative word.
At Indiana’s pro day before this year’s draft, he measured 6-foot-8 7/8 and 370 pounds. With 36-inch arms and an 86 5/8-inch wingspan, getting around Jones to get to the quarterback is like going from Green Bay to Chicago via the Mackinac Bridge. Once he gets his hands on a defender, it’s typically been game over.
“That’s what a lot of people have been telling me,” Jones, who spent the week as the second-team left tackle, said with a laugh this week. “To me, it seems like a battle every single time but, I guess, from the outside looking in, it looks like I just grab and hold on.”
Jones’ size is rare. If he were to play in a regular-season game, he would be the tallest player in franchise history.
The height is great. The weight has been a battle. In 2020, Jones weighed 395 pounds during his junior season at Indiana. At pro day, with scouts from around the NFL gathered to watch the Hoosiers’ pro prospects, Jones weighed 370 pounds. With a 5.60-second time in the 40-yard dash, he went undrafted.
“It’s been this way my whole life,” Jones said. “Just making sure I’m staying at a consistent weight and making sure that when I go against guys that are a little bit faster, little bit quicker, that I’m getting out of my set and using my advantages.”
Jones blames himself for his weight issues. He could lovingly blame his father. James Jones is the owner and chef of His Place Eatery in Indianapolis.
“Everything” that comes out of the kitchen is good, Caleb Jones said. “It’s his ribs, his smoked meat loaf. It’s crazy good.”
Soul food is good for the well, soul. It’s not good for the waistline.
“It had its challenges, that’s for sure,” Jones said.
Fortunately, James Jones had some tricks up his culinary sleeve. When Jones had to cut weight or when it was time to get ready for the season, his dad would prepare special dinners. When it was time to go back to school, he’d send along the His Place Eatery version of Blue Apron.
“He would send me a box that had green beans, grilled chicken, grilled catfish – stuff like that,” Jones said. “It was almost like a meal prep so I could stay on diet. It’s always been like that. When I went into the restaurant and I knew I had to lose weight, he would always make sure to have something different for me that wasn’t the same as I could normally order.”
With the Packers’ chefs whipping up a bunch of food meant to power professional athletes, Jones said he was down to 338 pounds. There’s no doubt being lighter on his feet has helped him on the practice field and accelerated his climb up the depth chart of a team that typically covets athletic blockers.
“Obviously, he’s got rare length and I think he’s one of those guys for as big as he is – everyone wants to talk about his size – he’s a little bit better foot athlete than I think people give him credit for,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said on Wednesday.
“We liked his play temperament coming out of college. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He’s made the most of his opportunities. He’s gotten himself in really good shape, probably the best shape he’s been in since high school. He’s done a really nice job, so I’m excited for him, among others, to get out there Friday and really have an opportunity to see what they can do.”
Jones professional debut awaits with Friday night’s game at the San Francisco 49ers. It will be his next proving ground. Going undrafted, Jones had to prove to himself that he belongs in the NFL. He took care of that during the rookie minicamp, and he said he’s reinforced that belief through the first 13 practices of training camp.
Going undrafted “definitely fuels me a little bit. I can’t blame anybody but myself for where I ended up going in the draft and me being an undrafted guy. I didn’t show people that I can consistently take care of my weight and be an athlete and play with these guys that are running 4.4s or 4.5s. Now that I am at a good weight and now that I’m out here competing on a consistent basis, it plays in the back of my mind, ‘Yeah, I was undrafted.’ But that doesn’t mean anything. I’m going to make a name for myself, same as everybody else.”