Marcus Jones

Marcus Jones puts on his New England Patriots cap as his name is called during the third round of the NFL Draft.

As the hours ticked by on April 29, the anticipation and the reality for Marcus Jones and Alex Wright began to set in as the second day of the 2022 NFL Draft drew closer.

Both Jones and Wright are Coffee County natives and both were expected to hear their names called during the second day of the draft becoming the first time two players from the area have been selected in the same draft. In fact, it would be the first time a player from Coffee County has been selected in the draft since Enterprise native Cedric Smith was drafted in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft. It’s also the first time an Elba native has ever been drafted.

Jones was a star basketball, football and track and field athlete at Enterprise before becoming an All-American at Troy. Jones became quickly known as one of the deadliest kick returners in the country as a Trojan and he was also one of the best cornerbacks in the Sun Belt. Then, after Neal Brown left Troy, Jones made the decision to make a change, as well. Jones transferred to Houston and his star began to take off further.

Jones grew into one of the best all-around athletes in the entire country and in 2021, earned the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the most versatile athlete in the entire country.

As Jones’ family prepares for a similar NFL Draft party, the anxiety sets in amongst his family but the Enterprise native remains calm. It’s that relaxed, always in control, demeanor that has been a part of what has made him an elite athlete.

“The main thing I’ve done is work out and staying in shape and staying occupied and spending time with my son and doing things like that to stay focused,” Jones said. “It’s actually exciting to see everyone that’s not in my shoes and how anxious they are and everything. It’s kind of funny.

“I’m feeling good, though. This is definitely a situation I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid and I’m ready to see where I’m going. It’s been a long process but it’s something I’ve been dreaming of.”

Wright was a star basketball and football player at Elba before becoming an all-conference player at UAB. He spent much of his Friday planning a draft party.

“I’m just anxious. I’m just trying to plan this party right now to take my mind off everything,” he emphasized. “I can’t control what happens, so why stress about it?”

Wright described the whole process since declaring for the NFL Draft following the 2021 season as a “rollercoaster.”

“It has its good days and bad days, its stressful days and tiring days along with the fun days,” he said. “At the beginning, it was all about training and getting my body right and then teams started contacting me and then it came time for the (Draft) Combine.

“That’s where I met the best players in the nation and got a chance to build chemistry with people from different areas and different colleges. Working out for coaches and meeting coaches that I’ve been seeing on TV since I was little was a cool experience. Just worrying about where I’m going and all of that has made this probably the most stressful week I’ve ever had.”

Like Wright, Jones said the process since declaring for the draft has been a long one but it’s also been something he said he would never forget.

“It’s a blessing winning all of the awards and seeing the Combine, even though I didn’t get to participate there, but just sitting down with coaches and scouts and seeing that whole process and everything we have to do that people don’t know about was great,” he said. “The small things are things I won’t forget.”

 Going into Jones’ senior season at Enterprise, his high school coach David Faulkner said that if Jones were just a few inches taller every single college in the country would be begging him to come. Fast-forward five years and the only criticism analysts can level against him remains his size. That has been a driving motivator for the speedster.

“I always pride myself in controlling what I can control. Height is not something that I can do anything about,” Jones emphasized. “Just waking up every morning, the doubters make me improve myself.

“I can’t control my height but then when I hear people saying, ‘Oh, he’s small’ and this and that I look at people in the league like Tyrann Mathiue and Kenny Moore, guys that are playing at my position and having success but are also my height.”

Jones also has some added motivation as he recently witnessed the birth of his first-born son.

“That’s No. 1 for me,” Jones said with a smile. “I have someone leaning on me now. Seeing him and waking up every morning and seeing his smile and face gets me up and out of bed every day.”

As the two Coffee County players tried to take their minds off the upcoming chaos of the draft, both ironically ended up at the same local barbershop on Friday morning.

“It was crazy, I just saw Marcus at the barbershop and we were just having shop talk and everything and everyone was telling us how proud of us they were,” Wright said. “I feel like we’re setting a bar for kids that come after us to reach for.”

Wright said growing up the only player that he ever heard about from Elba that played in the NFL was former Arizona Cardinal Ronald McKinnon. Now, younger children growing up in Elba will be able to look to Wright in the same manner.

“I saw what Ronald did and he was like the only person that’s really ever made it that far from here,” Wright recalled. “Now, 30 years later here I come and you have people walking up to me at WalMart and they’re like ‘Good luck Alex’ and patting me on the back and I don’t know who they are. I take it as a blessing and I’m thankful that people are seeing me now that never really saw me. It’s blessings on blessings.

“I’ve been to (Elba’s) spring practices and stuff and talking to the younger players and they’re asking me for advice on certain things and I just tell them to follow their heart. It’s just a blessing to be someone that can set a bar for others.”

Jones isn’t taking the fact that younger players will look up to him lightly either. He recently spoke to the Enterprise football team ahead of the draft.

“The main thing is setting the standard and the bar that if you have a dream and you want to achieve it you can,” Jones said. “You have to put the right effort in. It’s not easy at all.

“If it was easy then everyone in the world would do it. Just putting it out there and letting kids know, especially kids my size, that you can do it if you put in that hard work and dedication – and the blood, sweat and tears – into it.”

On Friday night, Jones and Wright saw all of their “blood, sweat and tears” pay off when they were both selected in the third round of the NFL Draft. Wright was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 78 overall pick, while Jones was selected by the New England Patriots with the No. 85 overall pick. Jones and Smith have both set goals for their immediate futures in the NFL.

“I’m a milestones type of person,” Jones said. “The first thing is making it to the NFL and then whatever I can do to help the team I’m down for. If they want me to play special teams or cornerback or nickel (back) or if they want me to play offense I’ll do that, too.

“I want to be Rookie of the Year if I can and after that it’s Pro Bowls, but winning is the first thing. Going 1-0 each week is the big thing.”

Wright said he wants to start small with his goals and build up.

“I just want to have a good rookie camp, first off,” he said. “Then, build off of that. I don’t want to try and make any big deal out of like being Rookie of the Year or anything. I like to start small and work my way up from there. I’m just focusing on the present and when I get there I want to have a good rookie camp and take things day by day.”

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