It is going to happen. In fact, it has already been happening. Fans are going to claim that Mike Jones Jr isn’t the next Isaiah Simmons on the Clemson defense.
Newsflash, he doesn’t have to be. Clemson may never see another defender as versatile as Simmons again. They just don’t come around very often.
However, Jones Jr is certainly capable of playing the role of the SAM in the Clemson defense, and he is capable of playing it quite well.
After redshirting in 2018, he played in all 15 games last season as the backup to Simmons. He has also spent those past two seasons soaking up everything he can from Simmons.
“I learned a lot from Isaiah,” Jones Jr said back during spring practice. “Just being calm, and composed, and trusting your preparation, and believing in yourself on the field. Isaiah is a freakish talent, and he was a teacher, just being around him. But I feel like I am a freak just like him. Just playing confident, believing in yourself, working hard, and letting it all transfer to the field.”
When it comes to taking over for Simmons, Jones Jr isn’t is worried about the comparisons. He is more focused on being the best version of himself that he can be. He certainly has the talent to excel in this defense, it just might be in a different way than Simmons did.
“You know, you try not to think about it,” Jones said. “That’s probably what I do the best. Just focus on myself, and being the best I can be every day, and try and get better every day. That’s really the main thing I do.”
While Jones Jr is still waiting on the fall to get here before showing what he’s capable of doing on the field, off the field he has already shown what he is capable of.
Over the past few weeks, Jones Jr has started to grow into not only a leader on defense, he has grown into one of the leaders of the team period. He was one of the driving forces in organizing the peaceful protest that took place in Clemson over the weekend, along with Trevor Lawrence, Darien Rencher, and Cornell Powell..
It only takes about five seconds of hearing him speak to know that this is a young man that is already wise beyond his years. Listening to him speak about the ongoing issues in today’s society, it’s obvious the Tigers have a true leader on the team.
“Two months ago” Jones Jr said at the protest. “If somebody would have asked me that we could get a diverse group like this to come together and talk about issues facing the black community, I would not have thought it was possible,”
“I have not seen it my whole life. As a young black man, I have lived through injustice my whole life. Not only me, but my father and my grandfather and many more before him. But I refuse to let it happen to my son.”
A football team can never have to many leaders in the locker room. When Jones Jr speaks, people listen. And that’s going to prove to be a valuable asset in the Tigers locker room over the next season or two.