After injury-riddled 2021, FSU cornerback Jarrian Jones eyeing redemption
Many of Jarrian Jones’ numerous tattoos are a roadmap of his time in college football.
On one shoulder and across his chest, SEC and Mississippi State tattoos tell the story of the school he signed with out of high school.
On the other shoulder as well as the side of his torso, ACC and FSU tattoos detail his second collegiate home as he enters his third season with the Seminoles.
But nowhere on his body is representing the physical and emotional turmoil the Magee, Miss., native went through ahead of and during the 2021 season.
It was a trying enough season that he considered walking away from football.
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“Last year was kind of rough for me. I almost thought about giving up on this,” Jones said Friday. ”I couldn’t really do much. I missed like three, four months of football. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t sweat. I had screws in my hand.”
In Jones’ mind, 2021 was supposed to be his breakout season. After appearing in 19 games and making four starts over his first two seasons at Mississippi State and FSU, it was now his draft-eligible year.
But instead of contending for a starting job, a hand injury and offseason surgery sidelined Jones for almost the entirety of the preseason.
“They told me I was going to have to sit and I couldn’t sweat or do anything for a long time and I was just like, ‘This was supposed to be the season. I worked hard,’ ” Jones said. “This whole time, this was supposed to be the season for me. I had a great spring and I just thought this was going to be the one.”
The good news for Jones was he was back in time for the season-opening game for Notre Dame, playing 37 snaps. The bad news was that he didn’t feel like himself after practicing minimally in the lead-up to the season getting underway.
“I was playing catch up all year. You go from three to four months of doing nothing, I couldn’t even sweat, to you’ve got to play Notre Dame. They just threw me out there,” Jones said.
Despite the fact that Jones didn’t feel caught up, he was seeing plenty of the field due to the Seminoles’ cornerback situation. He made his first start in FSU’s third game at Wake Forest and started six of the next seven games from there.
The redemptive performance for him came in FSU’s win at North Carolina where he had a remarkable interception against UNC star receiver Josh Downs while playing a season-high 57 snaps.
However, the moments of struggle, understandable given the situation, outweighed the moments of brilliance. It severely hurt matters that he re-aggravated his injury shortly after the UNC game.
Although he appeared in every game, Jones’ playing time severely waned as the season progressed. Were it not for his mother and his girlfriend, he admits he may not still be with the team or in football.
“They just told me to stick it out. You have to go through some of the hard to get to the brighter side of it,” Jones said. “That was my mindset throughout. Stay strong. They helped me through this.”
Looking back now, he’s very relieved he stuck it out. A complete and healthy offseason has helped him tremendously as he looks to rediscover the success he had earlier in his career. After all, he’s only three years removed from being a four-star prospect and the No. 26 athlete in the 2019 recruiting class.
One major change this preseason has been Jones rotating in some at nickel cornerback. It’s a move that has made him more valuable in a secondary where playing time will be at a bit of a premium.
Despite any preconceptions surrounding his ability, Jones has been one of the more impressive FSU defensive backs of the preseason through eight practices.
“Jarrian is a guy that has really put an emphasis on technique and fundamentals. He’s applying it throughout the play,” FSU defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson said. “He’s always shown the athletic ability to be able to get it done. I’m excited with the growth he’s made inside because he hadn’t done that up to this point for us. I’m really excited to see the strides he’s made.”
Prompted about some of the negative social media response he received for his struggles last season, Jones made it clear he has seen all of it. Most of it, he said, is sent to him by his parents.
As to his message to those people as he looks for redemption this season?
“I just want them, whatever they said, to stay there. Whatever you said, however you said it, just stay there,” Jones said. “When you see the flip side of it, don’t act like you knew this the whole time.”
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