Blue-collar Benito Jones inches away from NFL
WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - The play was called “Ole Miss.”
It featured a 260-pound defensive tackle catching a nine-yard touchdown pass to lift Wayne County past Oxford, 45-41, in the 2015 Class 5A state championship.
It was the perfect way for Benito Jones to complete his high school career, in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium where he would spend the next four years. A heralded senior season in Waynesboro which included such honors as:
- Under Armour All-American selection
- Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game selection
- Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches
- First-team All-State
- 83 tackles, 14 sacks
- Five-star recruit, No. 7 overall recruit by ESPN.
However, every one of those bullet points was earned. A blue-collar attitude Benito learned by working cattle in Waynesboro with his father Billy Ray.
No man has been more influential in the life of Benito than his father. Billy Ray taught Benito the value of hard work in everything he pursues, including a professional football career.
“‘Son if you ever want something, you have to go out and work for it,’” Benito said. “That just translates on the field and every day in life and even on the farm.”
Though his father has passed, the words stick with Benito still – especially as he looks ahead to this weekend’s NFL Draft.
It’s a dream he’s had ever since first picking up a football at age five. The youngest of seven, Benito watched three of his sisters play college basketball.
He carved his own path, from Wayne County to Ole Miss.
“Everybody told me when I was playing, you keep playing I’ll see you on Friday nights,” Benito said. “Friday nights turned into Saturday nights. People kept telling me, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be playing on Sunday and Monday nights.”
Benito earned second-team All-SEC accolades as a senior with the Rebels, leading the SEC with 30 tackles at the nose tackle position to go along with 5.5 sacks.
The stellar season earned him invites to the 71st Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, where he received feedback from a number of professional teams.
“[Some teams] need a nose guard, need a young guy on their roster,” Benito said. “They want someone to come in and give it their all as a young man. Really to see the work ethic and compete, show them that you love the game of football.”
Of course, the working hard part has never been a problem for the Jones family.
Benito’s ready to see it all pay off.
“I used to read books about Ray Lewis,” Benito said. “They told him that he wasn’t big or fast enough but his effort and work ethic was nowhere near anybody else’s. It’s a big opportunity. You never have this kind of opportunity, once in a lifetime deal.”
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