This is the second in our annual "Impact Player" series, taking a closer look at some of the state's top players as we draw closer to the start of MIAA football season. To see past Impact Players, CLICK HERE. As always, the names of opposing high school coaches commenting are withheld.
If the body is a sword, St. John's two-way star Davon Jones knows how to swing his violently.
The book on Jones has been out for a while, ever since he showed up in the secondary as a freshman against Xaverian in 2011 and launched downhill to meet star running back Maurice Hurst Jr. -- a two-time All-State defensive tackle, now playing at Michigan -- squarely for one of the year's most brutal collisions. Since then, he's only blossomed, as much a force on the gridiron as he is on the hardwood (he's led the Pioneers to two basketball district titles, starting at point guard).
Jones is coming off a brilliant 2013 campaign in which he racked up 125 tackles and eight interceptions from the free safety position, earning ESPN Boston All-State honors as the Pioneers reached the inaugural MIAA Division 2 State Championship at Gillette Stadium. He was also a problem on offense, where he was the Pioneers' second-leading receiver with 50 catches for 680 yards and seven touchdowns. Last month, he gave a verbal commitment to Boston College, the latest FBS-level commit for a program that has become a steady pipeline for Division 1 college programs in the Northeast.
This fall, Jones will be the first four-year starter for St. John's under the regime of head coach John Andreoli -- something even NFL rookies Richard Rodgers (Packers) and Rob Blanchflower (Steelers) didn't do in their time with the program.
With a knack for menacing hits and a sometimes freakish high-pointing ability, Jones is expected to be among the early contenders for this year's ESPN Boston Mr. Football Award, given annually to the state's top player. He'll be saddled with high expectations, but if history means anything, he should be up to the task.
Player: Davon Jones
School: St. John’s of Shrewsbury
Hometown: Worcester, Mass.
Listed Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 185 pounds
Scouts Inc. Grade: 3 Stars (72 overall)
Scouts Inc. Rank: 8 -- Mass.
College: Boston College
Key 2013 stat: Playing deep as a free safety, registered 125 tackles and eight interceptions.
Workout stat: Has a 38-inch vertical leap.
Opposing Coaches: "Davon is a pure defensive back, he has all the tools to succeed in the ACC. The thing I love about Davon is that he also plays with a chip on his shoulder and takes the game to his opponents. Big plays have always been his calling card, and will be in the future playing for coach Don Brown. ... That’s my dude, one of favorite guys, he’s so explosive. I love the edge he had to him, I loved that attitude. I thought he was electric. What a player. His physical ability, his ability to change direction, his vertical leap, he is a big time talent. ... In terms of his physicality, I thought he brought it, he came downhill very well. I haven’t seen in our area a kid with his skill set and ability in a while. I really like him him a lot, and I told everybody about him. Every school I went to with my kids on the recruiting trail, I said ‘Hey, you gotta see this kid play’. ... His ability to explode off the ground is tremendous. I think he’s one of those guys that it’s going to take until he actually gets into camp to figure out which side of the ball he belongs, because he’s really effective. I almost think he’d be really tough to cover in the slot position."
Scouts Inc.: "Jones has the minimal size requirements for the defensive safety position at the Power Conference level of play. This is an athletic prospect who shows production as a deep safety, wide receiver and special team's punt/kickoff return specialist; shows quicker than fast playing speed rather than a breakaway burst. ... This is an instinctive player who plays his position efficiently; reacts quickly to the pass but tends to sit back a little when defending against the run. Doesn't get out of position or let the ball get behind him. ... Displays good zone coverage ability; plays off the hash, showing good route awareness with eyes on the quarterback; reacts quickly to the outside, demonstrating the ability to crossover and gain vertical depth; overlaps to the outside, showing outstanding high point interception ball skills. Is quick to plant and break on underneath throws. ... Jones does a good job locating and getting into creases when returning punts and kickoffs. Handles the ball cleanly while demonstrating the elusiveness needed to make the first man miss. Runs an elementary route tree efficiently (stop/stop and go, bubble screen package); displays elusive, quicker than fast playing speed. Most likely will need a red shirt year to grow physically while polishing technique."
Bottom Line: You don't rack up 125 tackles playing 15 yards off the ball if you're a passive kid. Part of Jones' allure is his aggression, and the abandon with which he arrives at the point of attack. But he's also got the natural physical tools to go along with it, high-pointing passes like few others we've seen in our time covering high schools for ESPN Boston. We know his capabilities on defense, but where he lines up on offense will be one of the more interesting subplots of the preseason. He was a home run threat at "X" receiver last season in Andreoli's "Blur" offense, but he's also shown eminence at running back and slot receiver during his time with the program.