NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans are still getting to know new center Ben Jones, but so far they seem to like everything about him.
Coaches love his grittiness, and leadership skills. Teammates enjoy his easy-going personality, and his willingness to do just about anything.
Jets running back Zac Stacy, a former Vanderbilt star who's headed into his fourth NFL season, knows Jones as well as anyone.
The two went to high school together at Bibb County in Centreville, Alabama.
"I've known Ben pretty much my whole life," Stacy said. "In high school, Ben used to pick me up from school every day. I used to live on the other side of town and he used to come all the way across town to pick me up and he'd pick up other guys at the school. He had a Ford truck, a big pick-up truck, and he used to come get us every day. He'd round us all up and we'd go.
"I was out of his way. But Ben used to come and get me. That's just the kind of guy he is."
Jones started 49 games in college at Georgia, and played his first four NFL seasons with the Texans before signing with the Titans in March. Stacy ran for 3,143 yards and 30 touchdowns at Vanderbilt, and ended up being a fifth-round pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Stacy gives Jones credit for putting him on the radar back in high school. Jones made Super Prep's All-Dixie Team, Prep Star All-Southeast Region and Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 5A first-team and All-State honors as a senior.
"I think Ben is the guy who kind of got me recruited,'' said Stacy, who ended his prep career with 5,863 rushing yards and 76 total touchdowns. "Obviously he was a big recruit coming out of high school, and the scouts would come and watch him and they'd say, 'Who is this running back that is running behind him?' So I thank him all the time for getting me to college to tell you the truth."
Stacy laughs when asked about Jones' wild side. Jones has been known to eat just about anything on a dare. He once drank his own urine to win a bet.
Yeah, Stacy saw that before a lot of folks.
New Titans offensive lineman Ben Jones arrives at Saint Thomas Sports Park to sign his contract. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
"Ben is a gritty, hard-nosed guy. Not being biased whatsoever, but he is one of the toughest players I've ever played with or against,'' Stacy said. "Obviously he went to Georgia and I went to Vanderbilt, so we played against each other a few times. I remember guys like (former Vanderbilt linebacker) Chris Marve telling me, 'Man, you played with that guy in high school? He's a tough player.' He is tough, but he is also unbelievably smart. He can play fast and physical because he knows what is going on.
"With that being said, yeah, I've also seen him try some crazy stuff. I think he has pretty much eaten anything you can think of except maybe glass. Everyone used to bet him in high school to eat stuff and he's eaten cockroaches and spiders, worms, grass – you name it. He doesn't care.
"I always had my bets on Ben. I was his hype man, because I knew he would do it."
Stacy would bet on one more thing: Jones is going to be a good fit for the Titans.
Jones is expected to start at center on a revamped Titans offensive line – in front of a revamped backfield -- this fall
"He is a great fit for the Titans,'' Stacy said. "With the signing of DeMarco Murray, Ben is a great addition. The running game is coming along for those guys and Ben is a great asset to add fuel to the fire for that team. Along with his football traits, off the field he is an awesome teammate, man. He always puts his teammates first and is always looking out for guys and he makes guys better."
TitansOnline.com looks at the NFL career of OL Ben Jones. (AP Photos)