JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mac Jones knows what you’re thinking: Why go to Alabama?
Jalen Hurts is the returning starter who had Alabama a few seconds from winning back-to-back national championships. Hurts is the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Year.
Tua Tagovailoa is the new 5-star prospect and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class. Tagovailoa outdueled multiple top prospects to earn MVP honors at the 2016 Elite 11 quarterback competition.
A 4-star quarterback from The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Jones often is the forgotten man when discussing the future of the position for the Crimson Tide. No disrespect to either of those guys, but Jones is here to compete.
“The best player is going to play, and if I’m the best player, I’ll play,” Jones told SEC Country. “If Jalen is the best player, he’ll play. If Tua is the best player, he’ll play. I knew that’s how it was going to be. Coach (Nick) Saban plays the best players.”
Jones, who enrolled earlier this month as a part of Alabama’s Spring II mini-mester, arrived in Tuscaloosa as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 cycle, according to the 247Sports composite. He chose Alabama over Baylor, Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Enrolling in February made Jones eligible to participate in spring practice. Alabama fans will get their first look at Jones during the Crimson Tide’s A-Day spring game April 22.
Jones comes from an athletic family. His father, Gordon Jones, is 6-foot-4 and played tennis at Florida State. Gordon spent time as a tennis professional and taught lessons when he was younger.
While a foot shorter than his father, Jones’ mother, Holly Jones, played tennis at Mercer. Jones’ older sister, Sarah Jane Jones, plays tennis for the College of Charleston. His brother, Will Jones, played soccer at Mercer.
Holly Jones remembers thinking her son was a young romantic. When cleaning Mac’s room, she would find pieces of paper with “X’s and O’s” scribbled all over them.
Naturally, Jones believed her son was leaving love notes for her or that he had a girlfriend at a young age.
“I thought, ‘Oh, this is so sweet. He’s writing me a note with hugs and kisses,'” Holly Jones said. “But it turned out to be that he was coming up with plays already then.”
After starting in soccer, Jones made the transition to football after local parents complained about him being too big and too athletic for the children’s league.
In Pop Warner football, kids were just as big or bigger than Jones, but one thing was clear: Jones could “spin” the football, his dad said.
Playing tennis with his family helped Jones develop the proper technique a player needs when throwing a football. He never abandoned those fundamentals as he continued growing into the position.
“What would happen to us is we’d take him to a camp, and he’d be there with a kid that was 6-foot-3 with a full beard at 15 years old,” Gordon Jones said. “The coaches would be drooling over the bigger kid, and then they’d go throw. A lot of times the bigger kid couldn’t throw very well.
“They’d watch Mac and go, ‘Your son can throw the ball well.’ They liked his technique, so we always kind of knew he could be good.”
It wasn’t always easy to get coaches to notice Jones because, as Gordon put it, “size matters” to college coaches. Gordon recalls his son developing a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked because of his small stature.
Jones still needed a growth spurt before the offers would come. That slowly came during his first two summers of high school.
Jones grew from about 125 pounds to 170 and stood more than 6 feet during the summer before his junior year.
“I’ve always believed in myself because playing college football has been my dream since I was 5,” Jones said. “But I could tell that I was getting bigger and gaining more arm strength. I could always throw the ball well. I just needed to grow.”
Like a lot of kids from Florida, Jones grew up a fan of the Gators and loved watching Tim Tebow. He had dreams of playing for the Gators, but an offer never materialized.
Alabama began heavily recruiting Jones the spring prior to his senior season.
Fast forward to earlier this year. Saban and offensive line coach Brent Key landed at Jones’ high school in a helicopter to show he was one of the priority recruits.
Jones helped lead Bolles to the Florida 4A state championship game as a senior in 2016, passing for 1,532 yards and 29 touchdowns. He threw for 2,150 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior in 2015, taking the Bulldogs to the state regional finals.
Jones has been compared with former Crimson Tide star AJ McCarron. The two struck up a friendship through Twitter while Jones was dealing with the recruiting process.
Jones said he was honored that McCarron reached out to him and made sure he was comfortable with Alabama.
Jones will follow in McCarron’s footsteps and wear No. 10 with the Crimson Tide.
“I just like managing the game. I never like to do too much,” Jones said. “I just get the job done. I do what my coaches tell me, and if I do that, I’ll be fine and I won’t have to make any crazy plays. Really just a role player and a pretty good leader.”