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Nov. 19, 2014

The program player profile will be featured after each home game. Senior wide receiver Nick Jones was the sixth profile in the 2014 game program. Here is the feature that was in the game program for the Tennessee game.

By Jackson Filyo
Media Relations Student Assistant

Nick Jones is a couple of months away from the conclusion of his Gamecock career. It is a conclusion that he recognizes is approaching and one that he is prepared for. Jones was born and raised in South Carolina and has been exposed to the lore of Gamecock Football for a while now. As his time in Garnet and Black winds down, he can look back on his journey – to this moment – with pride, and look forward to his future with confidence, understanding exactly what his experience as a Gamecock has meant.

“Playing in this stadium means so much to me,” Jones said. “Playing around with the people I love and playing with my friends, what better situation could you be in?”

Each chapter of his journey provided him a different set of challenges to overcome, reinforcing his appreciation for the friendships he has made and the understanding that recycling his knowledge to those looking up to him is what he truly wants to be remembered for. Jones has made sure to embrace every memory and relationship, good or bad, as an opportunity to better himself and those around him.

Jones, now 22, started playing football at the age of six, when his father, Troy Jones, suggested that he take up football to build toughness and character. Through football, Nick found both success and happiness almost immediately, and made the first of many bonds that would help see him through his journey. During his first year of youth football, Jones befriended a teammate, Marcus Lattimore, who was also playing in his first season of organized football.

In the early stages of his career, football came easy to Jones. However, it did not take long for him to realize that success at higher levels of competition would require a new approach.

“In middle school I was bigger than everybody else,” Jones said. “But when we got to high school everyone started growing taller than me and bigger than me so I knew I had to work on speed and quickness.”

Jones adapted quickly. Despite suffering a knee injury during his junior season, Jones put up outstanding numbers, earning notable recognition in the form of both awards and college interest.

His Byrnes High School team won consecutive state titles in 2007 and 2008, Jones’ freshman and sophomore seasons. During his senior season with the Rebels, Jones led his team to the AAAA Division I title game. Byrnes’ on-field success combined with the abundance of next-level talent made their games a frequent stop for college scouts. Jones’ graduating class, chock-full of Division-I talent, had no problems filling the stands with recruiters from high-profile college programs.

Byrnes’ 2010 graduating class featured eight Division-I players including five-star prospect Marcus Lattimore, defensive ends Corey Miller (Tennessee), Brandon Willis (North Carolina) and Roland Johnson (Western Carolina), quarterback Chas Dodd (Rutgers), and Jones’ cohorts at the wide out position: Torian Johnson (East Carolina) and Jazz King (Marshall). By the end of his career, Jones was regarded as a three-star prospect and a top-100 wide receiver in his class. rated him as the 25th-best player in the state of South Carolina.

Despite drawing interest from a number of high-profile programs, including offers from Auburn, Georgia Southern, Michigan, and Northern Illinois, Jones could not pass up the opportunity to play close to home at the University of South Carolina.

“It means a lot,” Jones said of the prospect of playing close to home. “I’m a big-time family guy and just to have my family an hour and a half up the road…I give them a lot of credit for my success. I do this all for them.”

Upon his arrival in Gamecock country, Jones found himself on a depth chart stacked with wide receiver talent that featured the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Ace Sanders, and Bruce Ellington, all of whom are excelling in the NFL. Jones quickly came to the realization that taking a redshirt season may be in the best interest of his career long-term.

“When I first got the news I was kind of down about it to be honest with you,” Jones said of being redshirted. “I had never really sat out an entire year not playing football so I didn’t really know what to do with myself. As I talked to more people about it and talked to my family about it, they thought it was the best for me so I could develop and get quicker and faster and just be a better football player in general.”

Like any college freshman, Jones faced the challenge of managing his time with the bevy of responsibilities his new life presented. Jones took advantage of that time, educating himself on how to handle life on his own, building a foundation of work ethic and value that he would carry with him for the rest of his career.

“I had a lot of free time that redshirt freshman year,” Jones said. “I learned what to do, what not to do, what places to go to, what places not to go to and just not to get myself in trouble.”

Some may have been discouraged in Jones’ position, buried on the depth chart by some of the best wide receiver talent in the country. Instead, Jones took the time to learn from the upperclassmen, soaking up everything he could in the short time that he had with them. Jeffery was especially well known for taking the younger players under his wing.

“It’s so surreal to see him now,” Jones said of Jeffery. “Just a couple years ago I was lining up with him on the field and now he’s (in Chicago) as an All-Pro receiver, it’s unbelievable.”

Fast forward three and a half seasons, Jones finds himself playing a new role. With nearly his entire career under his belt, which includes significant contributions to what many consider to be the greatest era of Gamecock football ever, it’s his turn to be the leader. Jones has felt the elation of success and the pain of failure. He has seen teammates, like All-Americans Jeffery, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney take their success in Columbia to the next level. He has seen Lattimore, a teammate and best friend, overcome a number of serious injuries to now sit at the precipice of his dreams. Jones has experienced a lot since picking up a football for the first time and now has the opportunity to take what he has learned and share it with younger players that are in the position he once was, trying to find their place with the Gamecocks.

“I’m trying to be just like (Alshon),” Jones said. “I’m trying to help the younger guys out and show them what to do, not only on the field, but off the field as well.”

Jones is content with where he stands at this point of his career and is enjoying his role as a mentor; and despite his success on the field, finds his greatest joy in seeing others reach their own accomplishments.

“I see myself as a successful person,” Jones said with a smile. “Someone that is helping others achieve their goals. Just living life, having fun.”