MOBILE, Ala. – Growing up in Chicago, Robert Jones had hoop dreams.
Football just wasn't his thing, and until his junior year in high school, he never thought it would be.
"In Chicago, everybody wanted to be like Derrick Rose or Michael Jordan," Jones said. "I wanted to be just like Derrick. But when I got to high school and tried out for the basketball team, I didn't make it. My basketball dreams just didn't go my way."
When the football coach at Chicago's Rockford East spotted the big youngster walking the halls, he convinced him to go out for the football a second time after Jones tried it and didn't like it the previous year.
This time, it stuck.
Jones, who played collegiately at Middle Tennessee State, is now here at the Senior Bowl working before NFL scouts. He's trying to earn his way into the league, where he can make a living.
"Once I gave football an honest try," Jones said, "it changed my life forever. Now I feel like I can be a future NFL star. I feel like the sky is the limit for me."
A 6-foot-5, 319-pounder, Jones was named Honorable Mention All-Conference USA following the 2020 season at MTSU, when he played in eight games, with seven starts at right tackle. Jones played 537 total snaps, which was second among offensive linemen. He finished his collegiate career in impressive fashion after beginning his collegiate career at Highland (Kansas) Community College.
Here at the Senior Bowl, Jones is dealing with some adjustments.
In practices, he's worked predominantly at left guard and right guard, while also getting some reps at right tackle in 1-on-1 drills.
"I knew coming in it was going to be challenging, going from right tackle to guard," Jones said. "I knew they were going to have me play both sides. I just want to show them no matter if my technique is bad, fundamentals need work, I am going to be aggressive and I'm going to fly off the ball and show them I am a powerful, strong player even if I don't know what I am doing, or if I don't have good technique with it. And I want to show them, once I put the technique with the stuff that I already have, I can be a future NFL star. I really do feel like the sky is the limit for me. I just have to keep getting better every day."
While lining up next to players from Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Cincinnati, among others, Jones has held his own.
He's also been picking the brains of the Miami Dolphins coaching staff, assigned to coach the National team Jones is a member of.
"I feel like teams are looking at me to be versatile honestly," Jones said. "Some teams see me as a tackle, some teams look at me as a guard. I feel like as long as I get coached up, I can play anything they need me to play."
Jones said he just wants to make the most of the week.
He knows he's come a long way, but he's not done yet.
"I feel like it's going good," he said. "Just being around all these other players and seeing their knowledge of the game has helped me even more.
"It's a different, unique experience for sure, but it's fun. It's a time I'll cherish forever."