Aug. 7, 2009
By Alfredo V. Moreno - UNM Assistant Media Relations Director
The New Era, New Energy, New Mexico football team will have plenty of new faces making an impact on gameday this fall. GoLobos.com will take a look at several of these potential breakthrough candidates throughout the 2009 training camp. From rejuvenated veterans to enthusiastic freshmen, these up-and-coming players could be the secret the the Lobos' success in the first year of the Mike Locksley Era.
Today I caught up with fifth-year senior wide receiver Daryl Jones between a warm, sunny split squad practice session at the UNM practice fields.
Strong, physically imposing, with great athletic ability for his size, the 6-4, 211-pound Jones was one of the Lobos' most improved receivers this past spring. He thrived in his first weeks in the new offense and emerged as a consistent threat in the passing game capped by his five-catch, 84-yard performance in the Cherry-Silver Spring Game.
While Jones has appeared in 34 games (four starts) over the past three years, his career numbers (six catches, 72 yards) don't reflect his great potential at the position. This year, however, the Tampa, Fla. product is looking to change that. Though hard work and consistent focus Jones has his sights set on being one of the best receivers on the team and in the Mountain West Conference in his final season.
You looked like a new man out there on the practice fields during the spring, what changed?
Well, I came out there with the mentality to work hard every single day. We also have a very good coaching staff, a coaching staff that believes in me and got me to start believing in myself.
You had to be pleased with the results you saw on the field.
I was very pleased with my game in the spring. I wanted to come out and concentrate every snap and play to the best of my ability. I wanted to be one of the guys that coach Locks identified as a playmaker and make plays for the overall good of the team.
What specific aspects of your game are you trying to polish during training camp?
I'm just coming out here looking to get better every day man and hopefully it'll yield results during the season. Endurance is one of the biggest things I'm trying to focus on. My mom told me that you have to endure `till the end and that's what I'm trying to do. If I can get myself so that I'm able to go 100 percent on every play then that's going to allow me to show my playmaking ability on every play.
A couple years ago you had a chance to work with one of the greatest wide receiver tandems in UNM history when first team all-MWC players Marcus Smith and Travis Brown were here. When they went to the NFL there was a bit of a leadership void, but it seems like you and fellow senior Roland Bruno have been working to set that strong example for the unit this year.
One thing I learned from Marcus and Travis was work ethic. Those guys went hard on every single play, they practiced very seriously and every ball meant something to them. So I've tried to take on that mentality and even try to do better than they did. You always want to try to go beyond what the person before you did. Both of those guys were workaholics though. They were horses that could go all day.
Have you been dropping some knowledge on the new receivers out here?
Well, a lot of it is the simple things - keep fluids in your body, eat right, stretch everyday. I try and tell some of the young bucks, "look at what the older guys are doing, you want to get better as fast as possible, you don't want to waste any time, everyday, every ball, every catch, every practice is a time for you to get better."
So we've got this new offense now. It's no huddle, it's diverse, it's put up big numbers and points everywhere it's been run. What do you like best about it?
It's exciting, it's up tempo and the ball is going to be in the air. Our coaches remind us of that every day. The ball WILL be in the air this year. As a receiver, that's exciting because you pride yourself on being a playmaker.
You've got two young up-and-coming coaches working with you this year in J.B. Gerald and Aaron Moorehead. Coach Gerald helped lead his team to the FBS title game and coach Moorehead played in the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts - what have those guys brought to the wide receiver group?
Coach Gerald has been an inspiration to me. He and coach Moorehead have believed in me since day one and it's brought the best out of me and made me believe in myself.
What attracted you to the Land of Enchantment and Albuquerque, New Mexico all the way from Tampa, Fla.?
I got recruited well by the former staff, but I wasn't sure if I'd actually come visit. They told me that this would be a good fit for me and when I finally came out they proved to be right. They turned me around on it, I liked everything I saw here and thought that this might be a good place for me to play football. After some of my other visits I decided that from the athletic facilities to the school and other areas, I decided that this was a good place for college football.
How long did it take you to adjust to living out here in the high desert?
Well, I was a little homesick my first year, like everybody gets, and there was a little culture shock out here at first. It took me about a year and a half to get used to everything, but now it's like a second home to me. I get along with the people here, I understand the people and there's not that same culture shock there was when I first came here.
What's something you'll miss about living in Albuquerque if and when you leave town when your college days are over?
One thing that people don't realize is that we're going through a bit of a depression these days around the country, but Albuquerque is still a very good place to live. The cost of living is low and it's a really good place for somebody to come and get on their feet and establish themselves. When I go back home I see people struggling to find jobs and good places to live, but out here with the good cost of living and job opportunities you can make a good life for yourself.
Sounds like you might have a future with the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, but I'm sure there's some things about home that you miss. What's one thing you always have to do as soon as you step off that plane when you're back home in Tampa?
The first thing I have to do is go to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The first month I was out here they had Krispy Kreme locations, but then they closed all of the business. So that's what I've got to do when I go home - I've got to get some Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I love those Krispy Kremes.