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NFL Draft

Robert Jones: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • February 28, 2021
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Some of the biggest stars in the NFL have come from the junior college ranks, and every year, prospects with unique journeys to the pro level make a big splash on Sundays.

Middle Tennessee State offensive lineman Robert Jones has the skill set to add his name to that list. A fast-improving prospect that has been slept on throughout this process, things are about to change for Jones’ draft stock after he had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl. Jones went down to Mobile and proved that he belonged alongside prospects from bigger programs.

Jones recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his Senior Bowl experience, making the transition from JUCO to D-I, and why he possesses the traits to be a successful offensive lineman at the next level.

JM: What was your experience like at the Senior Bowl?

RJ: It was a blessing just to be there and to participate in the festivities. To be considered one of the best prospects in the country, it’s a huge honor. They gave me an opportunity to showcase my talents on the big stage. It gave me a chance to prove myself against the Power Five.

JM: For whatever reason, Middle Tennessee State still gets labeled as a “small school” from time to time. How important was it for your draft stock that you head down there to Mobile, Alabama and hold your own against prospects from the Power Five?

RJ: It was so important. You haven’t seen too many prospects from Middle Tennessee State at the Senior Bowl as of late. So for me to come out here and perform at a high level, it helps prove that programs like Middle Tennessee State have a lot of good players too. A lot of us could have played at the Power Five level, we just chose to play at Middle Tennessee State. We play good football.

JM: I love that. Who were some of the best defensive linemen you did battle with? Did anyone impress you during practice?

RJ: Rashad Weaver from Pittsburgh was definitely one of them. Osa Odighizuwa from UCLA caught my eye. Levi Onwuzurike, he’s a D-lineman from Washington. Those were probably the three best players I saw.

JM: Did you meet with any teams formally throughout the week?

RJ: I met with all 32 teams. I had a bunch of formal interviews. I met with every team face to face. I spoke with their scouts and everything.

JM: Do you feel like you connected with any teams in particular?

RJ: I spent a similar amount of time with everybody. I really felt a connection with the Bears, Raiders, and Dolphins. All of the team meetings feel the same at the end of the day (laughs).

JM: Do you see yourself as a guard or tackle at the next level? You played tackle at MTSU but a lot of people see you kicking inside in the NFL. Also, did you get any insight into that during your formal meetings?

RJ: Teams see me as a guard at the next level. They see me as a versatile guy that can kick outside if need be, but I’ll primarily be playing inside.

JM: That makes sense. What’s your favorite part of playing on the offensive line?

RJ: I enjoy the opportunity to be aggressive. It gives me a chance to go out there and maul people. That’s what I find fun about the game. I enjoy doing the dirty work and I don’t mind not getting recognized for it. Us offensive linemen don’t capture many headlines and I’m fine with that.

JM: What are three traits that make a great offensive lineman?

RJ: You have to be smart and play the game with a degree of intelligence. You have to be very aggressive. Lastly, I would say you have to be patient. That’s how you can begin to play the game at a high level. I try to remember those three things every time I step on the field.

JM: Is there a scheme that you feel fits you best at the next level?

RJ: I feel like I can fit in any scheme. If I had to say one, I think something like a power scheme makes the most sense for me. I’m a very aggressive and powerful player. A power scheme is great but I feel like I can fit in any scheme as long as I receive the proper coaching to learn the system.

JM: How did the scheme you played in at MTSU help prepare you for what’s next?

RJ: We did so many different things with our offense at Middle Tennessee State. It gave me the confidence that I could do anything. I was exposed to so much offensively. When I came here from JUCO, everything was very familiar. It wasn’t new to me. I just had to adjust to playing a different position because I was playing guard at Highland Kansas Community College. 

JM: I want to talk about your JUCO experience. You didn’t spend your entire career at MTSU. What was it like for you down there at Highland?

RJ: JUCO is rough. It’s a process. I don’t think people really realize what JUCO is like. You have to grow up fast. You’re a grown man now. You’re fresh out of high school but you’re in the real world now. Some of the other guys were 22, 23 years old. The coaches are pushing you to the limit. They’re trying to get the best out of you. You’re working to achieve what you’ve never had. It taught me how to be humble. I learned to keep my head down and to keep working. I’ll never take anything for granted ever again.

JM: It sounds like you learned a lot of valuable lessons. What changed for you when you went from JUCO to Middle Tennessee State?

RJ: We put more time and effort into the football program. The facilities are much more advanced. The overall support system is greater. When it comes to football, I felt like I played against the same talent level at JUCO. I didn’t notice a big difference in the talent when I went D-I. That’s honestly how I feel. It was just a bit more business-oriented.

JM: I find that very interesting. We’ve talked about the small school label a bit. If a scout questions the level of competition you played against, how will you respond?

RJ: I just take that as motivation. Yeah, I come from MTSU. I played JUCO before that. To be able to go out there and compete at the D-I level, I always tried to show that I had talent just like anybody else had. I made the most of my opportunity at the Senior Bowl. I need to be coached up on certain things. I’m open to that, I want that. I’m gonna keep my head down and go to work. It’s football.

JM: It’s a label that gets thrown at every prospect that comes out of MTSU, but we’ve seen some huge success stories as of late. Guys like Kevin Byard, Charvarius Ward, and Richie James were all undervalued coming out, but have proven to be good NFL players.

RJ: The program keeps you humble. We’re hungry at MTSU. We know how to work and we never take an opportunity for granted. The culture is very much in place at MTSU. It’s a great place to be, a place that can really help you grow both as a man and as a player.

JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, Robert. In closing, what kind of impact is Robert Jones going to make at the next level?

RJ: I’m gonna bring a big personality with me to the next level. I love to put in the work. I’m always looking to get better. When times get hard, I’m just gonna go out there and overcome adversity. Give me two, maybe three years. I’ll be a starting guard in the NFL.

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