Aug. 30, 2003
The following first appeared in the August 6, 2003 editions of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
In the off-season, Coach Butch Davis knew the Browns had a need for speed.
So C.J. Jones need only rattle off a few of his high school track clockings to show why Clevelands signed the undrafted rookie receiver from the University of Iowa.
He’s a solid 4.4 man in the 40-yard dash, has hit 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters and said he’s run 46.2 in his specialty, the 400 meters. At Boynton Beach (Fla.) High, he set the school mark of 47.1 in the 400 and qualified for the state meet all four years.
In his college finale, Jones showed his flash with a 100-yard return of the opening kickoff in the 2003 Orange Bowl against Southern Cal.
This spring Davis said Jones was overshadowed at Iowa by Hawkeyes quarterback Brad Banks, Jones’ cousin, and several outstanding offensive linemen. Three Iowa linemen and a tight end were selected in the first round of April’s draft. Overall, five players were picked off the Big Ten co-champions and five more went to the NFL camps as free agents.
It didn’t matter to Davis that Jones, a 5-foot-11, 192-pound flanker, caught just 38 passes for 468 yards last year. He scored nine touchdowns and returned 19 kickoffs for a 26.6-yard average.
Jones continued his strong bid to make Clevelands’ 53-man roster on Saturday’s scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills. He caught three passes for 31 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown from Kelly Holcomb. He also ran for seven yards on a reverse.
“I think he played awesome,” Browns quarterback Tim Couch said. “For a rookie to play the way he did, he made a nice run on the reverse and some tough catches over the middle. Hopefully he makes this football team; he can help us out a lot.”
Jones has made the most of extended playing time because receivers Andre Davis (fluid on the knee_ and Andre King (pulled quad) are injured. If the Browns keep six receivers Jones could be No. 6, especially since Frisman Jackson, on the physically unable to perform list with a broken leg, could be out until October.
“I got a lot more reps,” Jones said of Friday’s practice against the Bills. “I was a little winded. But I’m getting the opportunity to show the coaches I can catch the ball and do anything they want me to do. I’m honored to be here right now.”
“The veteran players tell me I’m doing a great job. I’m not taking it to my head. I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Jones played at Iowa for Coach Kirk Ferentz, a former Browns offensive line coach. Jones said he’s off to a fast start because the Hawkeyes’ offense is very similar to the Browns’ scheme. But Jones knows that success on kickoff returns – the preseason opens Saturday at Tennessee – could help his cause. It might be tough to surpass what he calls his “best-ever play” in the Orange Bowl.
“I had all my family there. The opening kick, you can’t explain it,” he said. “I didn’t get touched. I had to wait on my block. After that I just sprinted to the end zone.”
“I’d never run one back 100 yards, just 80 or 70. It was a great experience for me.”
Jones looks like he’s made a breakthrough the past two weeks, but he’s taking nothing for granted. “I’m just trying to make this team, do everything Coach tells me to do,” he said. “If he tells me to go block a defensive end, I’ll go in to block him. I might get put on my butt, but I’ve got to go in there and show I’ve got heart.”