E.A. Sports Today

A new chapter

Former Oxford and South Carolina DE Ulric Jones looks to keep his dream of playing in the NFL alive through the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks

Former Oxford and South Carolina defensive end Ulric Jones (R) signs a couple autographs for Anniston’s Lee Oliver (L) and Heflin’s Michael Elam Monday during the player’s send-off to join the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. (Photo by Al Muskewitz)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
 
OXFORD – Ulric Jones didn’t have a signing party when he came out of Oxford High School. He didn’t have much of one when he signed with South Carolina. But he was determined to have one this time as embarked on the next promising chapter of his football career.

JONES

A group of about 50 friends and family members gathered at Struts of Oxford Monday night to send off the former SEC defensive end to St. Louis where he’s signed to play in the reincarnated XFL.
 
He’s leaving for the city of the arch before the crack of dawn Tuesday to start on what he hopes will be more than a rest stop on what has been a long road as a professional football player.
 
“It’s been a long journey, a long story,” he said in welcoming his well-wishers. “I’ve never been of the heart to give up. This is just another one (chapter); it ain’t the beginning and it ain’t the last one.”
 
This will be Jones’ fourth professional league since coming out of South Carolina as a projected third- or fourth-round NFL draft pick. After going undrafted he signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks and was cut in camp. He played a season with the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football and when that league collapsed he played arena ball for the Columbus (Ga.) Lions.
 
“I’ve been cut, I’ve been released, I’ve been overlooked, I’ve been left behind, but it’s never been in me to give up,” he said. “As long as the wheels are still on the car I’m going to drive it.
 
“I’m just a fighter. I know about 10 or 15 people in my same situation who gave up and they were telling me to do the same thing, find a job, give up, do this. But I saw a vision, I saw it in myself. I knew what I was capable of and I knew where I could get to, so I had to re-evaluate myself, change my mentality, change my work habits, change my diet. Any and everything that I had to change I did it and it worked out for the better.”
 
Jones was taken with the BattleHawks’ 22ndpick of the XFL’s open draft and he’s “excited about the opportunity” to showcase his skills on a stage that could lead to the NFL. His senior year at South Carolina he played all 13 games, recording 29 tackles and a sack. The year before he made eight starts, had 42 tackles and blocked two field goal attempts.
 
“I’ve been at the lowest of levels and I’ve been at the highest of levels, so this XFL is just another stepping stone to get back to the highest level,” he said. “Now it’s just about playing, about getting there and performing.
 
“I know my talent. I know my heart. I know my ethic. I’m going to keep on going until I can’t go no more.”
 
Jones knew nothing of the old XFL, which was controlled by wrestling mogul Vince McMahon and NBC, had a team in Birmingham, lasted one year and was best known for its cheerleaders, quirky rules and a player named He Hate Me (Rod Smart).
 
McMahon revived the league for 2020 in a more straightforward form than its campy predecessor. This XFL is being played in eight cities, seven of which have NFL franchises. The season runs from Feb. 8 to the championship game April 26.
 
The games will be televised on ESPN, ABC and the family of Fox networks. The offensive coordinator of Jones’ team is one-time Jacksonville State and Samford OC Doug Meacham.

Cover and inset photos by B.J. Franklin



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