‘Going to be a dynamic NFL player’

STORRS – Travis Jones didn’t have much to prove at the UConn football program’s pro day.

His draft stock steadily climbed during his four years with the Huskies, and it skyrocketed with strong performances in February at the Senior Bowl and earlier this month at the NFL Combine.

So his return on Wednesday to the Shenkman Training Center, where scouts from all 32 NFL teams gathered with clipboards and stop-watches, was more an opportunity for Jones to reminisce than set the stage for what is clearly a very bright future.

“Like old times,” said Jones, who mingled for most of the five-hour block in the facility before taking part in some basic lineman drills run by Houston Texans assistant defensive line coach Kenyon Jackson.

Jones, a lineman from New Haven who projects as a nose tackle, is expected to be selected in the first or second round of the NFL Draft, to be held April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

He would become the first NFL player from Wilbur Cross High to be drafted. The last player from any New Haven High school to be drafted was Bruce Campbell, an offensive lineman who went from Hyde Leadership to Maryland and was selected in the fourth round by the Raiders in 2010.

“It would be big for me, making it to the league and having New Haven on my back and having little kids look up to me,” Jones said.

Jones, 6 feet 4, weighed in at 327 pounds Wednesday, down about 40 from when he arrived at UConn in 2018. He finished his UConn career with 133 tackles in three seasons (the Huskies did not play in 2020). He entered the 2021 season as a surefire prospect and opened more eyes to his potential di lui with a disruptive performance Nov. 13 in UConn’s 44-7 loss at Clemson, shining in the type of game that UConn’s independent schedules will continue to be built around .

“I had the same mindset I have every game – go out and dominate,” he said. “I was just a little more consistent in that game. It was fun playing at a big Power Five school in front of that many people. Have a good game against those teams, more people are going to take note, for sure. “

Jones was a force for an otherwise overwhelmed UConn team last season and was probably the best nose tackle during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. At the combine in Indianapolis, he further showcased his unique athletic gifts, running a 4.92-second 40-yard dash and a 4.58-second 20-yard shuttle. He had a broad jump of 110 inches and a vertical jump of 28.5. All of those times or measurements were in the top five for interior linemen.

“Just trying to be the best football player possible, dominate everything I do on and off the field,” Jones said.

UConn defensive coordinator Lou Spanos spent 22 seasons as an NFL assistant coach before joining in the Huskies prior to Jones’ sophomore season of 2019.

“First and foremost, high football instincts, the measurables, the length, the speed, the explosion,” said Spanos, who served as interim coach for the final 10 games last season. “On and off the field, that makes a successful professional. That’s what Travis Jones is. He is going to be a dynamic NFL player. “

Jones said some NFL teams have expressed concern with his stamina. He hopes his performance di lui at the Senior Bowl – and the shape was in there and at the combine – alleviates that concern. For Spanos, it never existed.

“I don’t know who would question,” said Spanos, a Steelers assistant in 1995-2009. “No one asked me. But I see Travis going in practice and on game day, long play drives, and he can run all day. For a big man that size, his stamina di lui is not an issue. “

Jones said he does not know what weight an NFL team would want him at. He will continue to work out in advance of the draft. He might spend some time training with Jets defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, who was a senior at UConn in 2018 when Jones was as freshman.

Jones said he isn’t paying attention to mock drafts, most of which have him being selected in the second round. He knows he is about to realize a dream.

“I’m somebody that is going to work hard and try to help the team win any way possible,” he said. “It’s a great experience, growing up, watching on TV and YouTube, and now to finally be here. The experience has been everything I thought it was. “

UConn was 4-32 in Jones’ three seasons, many of those games lopsided losses. Randy Edsall retired after two losses last season and Spanos bridged the gap the hiring of Jim Mora, whose first spring practices have begun.

“Of course, I wish we won more games,” said Jones, who had a career-high 47 tackles in 11 games last season. “I feel like this year with Jim Mora – Coach Jim – they’re going to do that.”

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