ATHENS - While an All-American linebacker at Georgia the past two seasons, Jarvis Jones was renowned for his humility. Now that he's trying to impress NFL teams in the lead-up to the draft, the Columbus native is taking a bit opposite tack.
"At the end of the day I think I'm the No. 1 player. That's my opinion. That's how I feel," Jones said. "And at the end of the day some team will get a great player."
Jones was speaking after UGA's pro day, when he ran, worked out and performed agility and strength drills for scouts, general managers and head coaches - including Rex Ryan of the New York Jets.
On Thursday, Jones didn't seem to have the fastest time in the 40 - it was announced at 4.92 by UGA - but Jones feels his on-field performance should speak for itself.
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"I'm not saying they're not worth anything, but those drills, running the 40, all that stuff, you could get somebody off the street running a 4.3. They can't play football. That's easy. I'm a playmaker. I make plays," Jones said.
The more important thing for Jones' draft status, and he knows it, is his health: NFL teams want to make sure that a diagnosis of spinal stenosis by Southern California doctors three years ago was incorrect. Jones was cleared at UGA and played two seasons without incident, but the draft process only leads to more second opinions. Lots of them.
Jones wants it clear that he's, well, cleared: He listed MRIs he received before, during and after the NFL combine, then on the way to Athens.
"They got everything that they wanted to see. All the information. They got their chance to get their hands on me, pull me, poke me, everything they can do," Jones said. "From the time I made my decision to go to the NFL, my whole thing was everybody was gonna ask about my medical situation. So when I did my interviews and everything, one thing I asked my agent was: Can you put me in front of a legit doctor, the best spine specialist, to diagnose me, you know? Everything went great. But if it didn't, I was ready for it. This game, it doesn't last long, but you've gotta enjoy it while you can. And I'm enjoying it, and I love it, man."
Jones didn't participate at the NFL combine last month, and said Thursday that's because he wanted to focus on getting cleared medically.
"The combine takes a lot out of you. I think I was one of the first guys there to see the doctors, and I know I was the last guy to see the doctor in Indy," Jones said. "I mean it takes a lot out of you, poking and proding and pulling, MRIs, X-rays. People don't see that but that's what's going on. I want to maximize my ability. That's why I waited (until) here."
Where Jones will be taken in the draft still remains hard to peg. No mock drafts have him falling further than the late first-round. NFL teams will handle it close to the vest, but the presence of Ryan, his brother Rob Ryan (the defensive coordinator for New Orleans) and various other defensive-minded people on Thursday may have been a reflection of the interest in seeing him perform.
Prior to his final game at Georgia, Jones said that if he left - and it was widely presumed he would - he would try to be the No. 1 overall pick. He was asked Thursday whether he now had a goal of being a top 10 pick.
"Man I had a goal to be (the) No. 1 pick," Jones said. "I'm a competitor all day. I love this game, like I said. I'm gonna continue to train like I'm the best. I have the confidence I'm the best. Not arrogant at all. I just feel like I'm a productive player, I mean for the past two years I showed it. And just gotta keep continuing to get better, and always improving on something."