Busy spending his summers on AAU basketball and his falls on football, NFL Draft prospect Jarvis Jones applied for only one part-time job as a teenager growing up in Columbus, Georgia. The experience taught him what it was like to be passed over in favor of a peer. "I tried to get a job at Wal-Mart as a senior in high school, and they told me they weren't hiring, but I took my best friend there the next day, and they gave him a job," Jones says, sighing. "It is what it is."
Jones, who spoke with Men's Journal from his perch on the Empire State Building's 38th floor while promoting his giant Subway sandwich likeness this week, has just finished his first real series of job interviews. Expected by experts to be selected between the ninth and 25th picks in Thursday's 2013 primetime televised draft, Jones estimates he visited and worked out for nine teams over the past two months. (Sitting nearby, one of his agents pushed the number to 15 teams. The Chiefs, Eagles, Lions, Bills, Steelers and Colts are known destinations, according to reports.)
At every stop in every city, the 23-year-old pass-rusher toured the facilities, met with his would-be linebackers coach and head coach and reviewed their playbook's schemes before sitting down to answer questions on topics ranging from his apparent misdiagnosis of spinal stenosis to whether he is, in fact, the best available in the pool of college prospects. Unlike during his amateur days – Jones started at the University of Southern California before gaining medical clearance at the University of Georgia, where he led the Bulldogs and the nation in sacks (14.5) a year ago – there is no recruiting. And if there is, it's the player who recruits the coach, not the other way around. That leads to Jones' top interviewing tip.
"At the end of the day, you have to be yourself," said Jones, who is hosting 15 to 20 family members and friends at his Subway-catered draft party in Columbus. "I don't think any organization is looking for somebody to be a robot, sit there, and read off a piece off a paper. I wanted them to see me for who I am, not just some guy that practiced for an interview, [because what if] I get drafted there and am a totally different person. I went in there as who I am, and that's who they'll see on a daily basis."
So, no, Jones never positioned his 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame in front of a mirror and rehearsed responses. In his Southern-style twang, he concludes, "Ain't never practiced for an interview."
"I'm just excited to get the opportunity to be able to take my abilities to the next level," Jones adds. "The question I always get is, 'Where do you want to go?' I'm [an Atlanta] Falcons fan. I always have been. But I'm not going to get a chance to pick my team."
That's right – in the NFL, as in the real world, the employer picks the employee.