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August 5, 2010

Is Jones the Bulldogs' heart and soul?

When Arthur Lynch and Ben Jones met for the first time during Georgia's 2008 G-Day game, the two might as well have been from different planets.

Lynch laughed that the Bulldog center might actually have been easier to understand.

"It was a little bit different," laughed Lynch, his thick Boston accent giving his background away. "I had lived in Boston my whole life and I never saw a kid like that. He couldn't understand me and I couldn't understand him."

Jones, a native of Bibb County, Ala. felt he needed a translator as well.

"I didn't have a clue what he was saying," Jones chuckled. "He would send me text messages and was spelling things where I was like 'what is he talking about.'"

Quarterback Aaron Murray joked his first meeting with Jones was a memorable one as well.

The Tampa, Fla. native met his future center during Georgia's practice for the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State, and like Lynch, was initially taken aback.

"The first words he spoke to me I was like 'Whoa, this is one country dude. I had never heard anyone talk like that," Murray said. "That's a Southern voice right there, but I tell you what, he's a great guy to have on your side. He's going to fight his guts out no matter what."

Yes, everybody's on the same page now.

If you were to take an informal poll of Georgia football players, ask them who represents the spirit of this year's Bulldog team, don't be surprised if Jones gets most of the votes.

As a three-star recruit, who Rivals.com rated as the nation's seventh-best center coming out of high school, your average Bulldog fan might not have been expecting much from the 6-foot-3, 300 pounder when he first stepped on the practice field.

Now, ask any teammate and they'll tell you it's hard to imagine where the offensive line would be without him.

"Ben is probably the spirit of the team," Bulldog guard Cordy Glenn said. "He's just naturally a good-hearted person who cares about his teammates, he cares about making his teammates better every day and he cares about making himself better every day."

Jones' hard work as paid off.

With 23 career starts already under his sizeable belt, Jones enters the 2010 campaign with number of preseason All-Conference honors, plus the "True Grit" Award he earned at the conclusion of spring drills.

Speaking of grit, there's a picture following the Bulldogs' 30-24 win at Georgia Tech that shows an exuberant Jones mugging for the camera with a mouthful of sod ripped from the turf at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

"That's Ben," Lynch said. "I say that because he's just so intense; He'll do anything to win. We go play basketball at Ramsey, we play NCAA football. Look at Ben I see it in his eyes; he gets mad when he doesn't perform to his best level."

Jones laughed the impromptu act came after a quick dare from offensive tackle Josh Davis.

"Josh gave it to me and said 'You won't eat it' but I said why not?'" Jones said. "I was so happy to win that game."

Davis should have known better than to dare Jones. Well, actually, he knew what the outcome would be.

"Don't dare Ben to anything. He'll do anything if you pay him five bucks," senior offensive lineman Clint Boling said. "He'll do it."

Apparently, Boling does mean ANYTHING.

One day last season, a teammate dared Jones to eat a cricket. Five dollars later and the cricket was gone.

"They said I wouldn't do it, I said 'OK, it's just a cricket,'" Jones said. "I had them worried, but I want them thinking OK, if he'll do that, what else will he do? It gives me a little edge to keep them thinking."

Boling just rolled his eyes.

"The cricket thing was pretty weird," he said. "He won't eat a praying mantis because he says they have a sticker on them. I don't even know what a sticker is."

Those weren't the only beans Boling spilled on his teammate following practice Wednesday afternoon.

Boling revealed there's also a picture in the Bulldogs' training room showing Jones as a toddler, sleeping on a pigs back on his family's Alabama farm, which the self-described "City Boy" Lynch got to visit with several other Bulldogs on the way to last year's Independence Bowl.

"It was kind of funny, I'd never been to Alabama first of all and second I'd never been in the country like that," Lynch said.

Jones laughed that he just wanted his friend to get to enjoy some good, Southern hospitality.

"It was different than he was used to," Jones said. "You get to my place and we have one red light in town; we live on a 500 acre farm, its a big difference for him."

Lynch was not the only one.

"It was an eye-opener for me, and I'm from Alpharetta," laughed Boling, who has also visited the Jones homestead.

But as Boling quickly points out, there's nobody on the Bulldog team who is more sincere or determined to do what he can to help make his teammates succeed than Jones.

"All that stuff, joking aside, when it's time to work, he's going to work," Boling said. "He'll always go out there and compete, he's always playing hard."

Lynch concurs.

"There are so many qualities and characteristics Ben has a person that he carries onto the football field. He's someone I can trust," Lynch said. "Last year during camp I kind of got in a scuffle, I look and No. 61 (Jones) was the only one coming. He was sprinting his way down; it's just something I respect out of him and something I think makes him a good football player. Outside of the talent he possesses, he just never stops. People respect him."

Jones said that respect is a two-way street. There's nothing he wouldn't do to help make his teammates the best they can be.

"I'm always trying to have a fire out there, take on that leader role; keep everybody pushing. I know I'm going to keep hustling and keep everybody going every day," Jones said. "Those guys know I've got their back and they've got mine. It's a brotherhood we've got on offense. It's part of the bond."

 


This story brought to you by Hotel Indigo.



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