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  • Chris Torello

St. Pete Native Begins NFL Journey at East-West Shrine Bowl

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Tony Jones Jr. feels right at home. He’s back where his football dreams began.

  • Tony Jones Jr. is a St. Petersburg native.

  • Jones Jr. played high school football at St. Petersburg Catholic and then transferred to IMG Academy in Bradention.

  • Jones Jr. is seen as a second or third day draft pick by most NFL Draft websites.

“I started in St. Pete and now I am going to finish here,” said Jones Jr. “It’s just a great moment for me.”

Jones Jr. has been playing football since he was five years old. But it took him a little time to believe he could make it on the gridiron.

“I doubted myself because I didn’t think I was that good enough until I was like 12.” said Jones Jr. “Then I started doing good and maybe I am kind of good.”

Jones Jr. wasn’t just good. He was great. He was a standout for St. Pete Catholic, before taking his talents to IMG Academy to play alongside some of the best high school prospects in the nation. From there he signed with Notre Dame.

Jones Jr. became a mainstay in the Notre Dame backfield. With an ability to pound his way in at the goal line, or break off a longer touchdown run.

He capped off his collegiate career in record-breaking fashion. His 84-yard touchdown run is the longest rushing touchdown in Camping World Bowl history. But even in that moment of personal glory, his head coach knew for Jones Jr.: it’s always about the team.

“He doesn’t really care about that stuff,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly following the Irish’s 33-9 win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl. “He was just excited about the ability to run the ball, run physical and did what he normally does – help us win.”

As Jones Jr. practices in front of NFL scouts this week at Tropicana Field, he is working to dispel a notion he didn’t produce enough during college. He rushed for just over 1,400 yards and 14 total touchdowns at Notre Dame. Jones says it’s about what you see on the field that matters.

“Don’t look at the stat sheet,” he said. “You have to look at the film. The film doesn’t lie about nothing.”

Jones Jr. has shown his ability to run, catch, and block. All that matters to Jones is that he gets on the field for an NFL team.

“I’ll play fullback, I’ll play tight end, it doesn’t matter,” said Jones Jr. following a practice at the Shrine Bowl.

While it doesn’t matter which team picks Jones, he knows there is always that chance the 813 area code pops up on his phone.

“If I got to play for the Bucs it would be cool because I would be playing for the city,” said Jones Jr. “But I don’t know that answer. Only God knows.”

That answer will be revealed this spring. For now, the Tony Jones Jr. is working hard to fulfill his NFL dream: A dream that started in St. Pete.

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