Calera’s Jayson Jones, T.J. Gilbert headed to Oregon
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
CALERA – For the last few weeks, Jayson Jones and T.J. Gilbert have had the agony of holding in a tough-to-keep secret after taking a visit to Oregon—both knew that’s where they wanted to go.
While Jones had been committed to Alabama for a while, he and Gilbert recently took a visit to Eugene to see what Oregon had to offer and both fell in love.
“When we got back from that official visit a couple weeks ago, he told me that’s where he was going,” Gilbert said. “We already had this talk and knew, but it was fun because everybody around me was asking ‘Where’s he going, where’s he going?’”
While the Ducks were already pursuing Jones hard, that weekend visit was when Gilbert was offered a player walk on position with the team by head coach Mario Cristobal, which he promptly accepted.
At that point, most were still up in the air about Jones’ decision. The long-time Alabama commit was high on the Crimson Tide for a while, but with Oregon making a strong push and Alabama backing off, Jones announced his signing to the Ducks on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
“There comes a time in every man’s life where he has to make a way and find his own home,” Jones said. “It’s not what you’re given in life that defines you, it’s the choices you make. With that said, I will be attending Oregon.”
Jones finished his senior season with 52.5 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks despite being double and sometimes triple teamed be opposing offensive lines.
Now he’ll look to take the success he’s had the last four years as a starter for Calera at the varsity level to the collegiate level of play, where he’ll look to prove doubters wrong.
“It became clearer to me closer to signing day where I should go,” Jones said. “The facilities up there are great and they actually know how to treat their recruits and players.”
While he was highly recruited throughout high school, that led to some difficult times and decisions for the 6-foot-7, 340-pound defensive tackle, as the recruiting process took a toll.
Jones said he couldn’t really say if Alabama lost interest in him because “it’s just next man up,” eluding to the long line of talented players being offered and the long line of coaches pursuing them.
But with the pressure of making the biggest decision of his life, coaches showing interest, losing interest, telling him where he should and shouldn’t go, the process drained him.
“I went through a state of depression at one point in this process,” Jones said. “It’s been really long, but I found God and overcame it, now I’m happy.”
Cristobal and Oregon also played a factor in the happiness of Jones by showing their desire to have him as a member of their team and “family.” And Jones didn’t shy away from telling others not to be scared to take a chance like that when it comes to handling their recruiting.
“Kids want to venture out, there’s more to it than just SEC country,” Jones said. “Anywhere you feel comfortable with, go.”
Now Jones will join a team that makes him happy, and he’ll do it alongside his good friend and high school teammate in Gilbert.
“He was in my ear all the time trying to convince me to go,” Jones said. “Now Oregon is going to get two guys that will never give up.”
“They’re going to get a dynamic duo,” Gilbert said. “They’re going to get two guys that work hard and that will contribute on defense.”