February 1, 2012

Jones keeps D.C.-area pipeline flowing

BALTIMORE | An Alabama recruiting satellite office in the Washington, D.C., area might not be a bad idea. On Wednesday, the Crimson Tide signed a highly coveted Mid-Atlantic recruit for the third consecutive year.

In 2010, the Tide landed Arie Kouandjio from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic High. One year later, it was Arie's brother, Cyrus. This time, Nick Saban and staff snagged four-star athlete Cyrus Jones from Baltimore's Gilman High.

And unlike the drama and uncertainty that surrounded last year's Cyrus Kouandjio signing, the ceremony for Jones was a mere formality.

"Alabama was my favorite school off the jump. I never said it, but I kind of gave hints here and there," said Jones, the 2012 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year. "I just fell in love with the people down there. Coach Saban and the coaching staff are real genuine. Them being dedicated to me not only on the football field, but in the classroom as well, sold me on Alabama."

Jones verbally committed to Alabama during the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 5 and made his decision official Wednesday morning in front of family, coaches and friends. Gilman assistant Bill McGregor, who also coached both Kouandjio brothers at DeMatha, was in attendance.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Jones quickly quelled any suspense among the dozen or so ceremony attendees when he entered the conference room toting a black-and-red Alabama hat.

"He is supposed to be signing at Alabama today. That won't happen. We're redshirting him for one more year," joked Gilman head coach Biff Poggi during Jones' introduction. "Cyrus is another outstanding young man, a great representative of Gilman. Coach Saban has called often recently and is very happy to have Cyrus come."

Asked if he sought the Kouandjio brothers' advice on adapting to life 800 miles from home, and if their opinions ultimately affected his decision to sign with Alabama, Jones said the impact wasn't a major one.

"I talked to Cyrus a couple of times when I went down for visits," Jones said. "It was good to have that input, but he wasn't really that influential. I just fell in love with the program and the atmosphere down there and saw it for myself. I basically just made my decision on my own."

Jones, a Parade All-American, saw playing time at five positions in 2011: cornerback, wide receiver, quarterback, returner and running back. He accumulated 2,400 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns on the season. Jones also helped guide Gilman to three Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference football championships.

Jones has spoken to other members of the Tide's recruiting class, and they're anxious to get to Tuscaloosa to start something special.

"I'm building good relationships with the other guys, a couple guys from Georgia and some that I met at the Under Armour game," he said. "We're staying in touch before we even get down there and think that it will help us bond very well on and off the field."

Jones' signing was perhaps a bit nostalgic for his father, Cyrus Jones Sr. The elder Jones played college basketball at West Virginia and recalled memories from his recruitment years ago.

"I was once recruited as an athlete, but nothing to Cyrus' caliber," the father said with a laugh. "It's good to raise your son and see all of the success that he has had not just with sports, but academically. And to see him prepare himself and be in the position to accept. That's the biggest thing his mom and I were really happy about."

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