Velus Jones Jr.
Photo | Courtesy of the University of Tennessee
Velus Jones Jr. has always been an attention-receiving player, including his days at Saraland High School and at Southern Cal, where he played his first three seasons of college football. Now at Tennessee and in his fifth college season — granted via COVID rules that did not count last season against a player’s four years of eligibility — Jones looks to help elevate the Vols’ program.
He is coming off a season in which the 6-foot-0, 200-pound wide receiver caught 22 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns for the Vols. He also led the SEC in kickoff return yards with 398 and is the national active leader in career kickoff return yards with 2,345. At USC he caught 36 passes for 347 yards and had 1,947 kickoff return yards.
At Saraland, Jones was a USA Today first-team All-America pick and was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super All-State team as a senior. He caught 48 passes for 945 yard and 10 TDs as a senior and also added 172 yards and two TDs rushing and two special teams touchdowns.
He appeared at SEC Football Media Days in Hoover last week and met with members of the media. Here is a portion of his Q&A session:
Q: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming season?
A: I’m looking forward to playing in front of 100,000 people, just putting on a show with this explosive offense, going on the field and having fun with my brothers. It’s all about fun. I’ve been playing this game since I was four years old. I’m so excited. Words can’t even explain how excited I am about it.
Q: You grew up about 3 1/2 hours away from here. Did you ever see yourself being on a stage like this at SEC Media Days?
A: I couldn’t even imagine. I remember growing up in Saraland, Alabama, just wanting to play SEC football. That’s how I know God is good all the time. So blessed to be here. I wouldn’t have ever imagined this. I’m a transfer from the University of Southern California, and being at the conference I watched growing up, it’s a blessing and a dream come true. I’m just blessed to be here to represent for my university and this football program.
Q: Georgia QB J.T. Daniels mentioned how you guys were good buddies at USC. What do you think of him?
A: JT is a great guy. He’s like a brother to me. We both played at the University of Southern California before we transferred here to the SEC. Yeah, me and JT, we hung out a lot, played video games together, was always at my apartment. Couldn’t get him out. I tried to kick him out a lot. Yeah, JT’s a great guy, and he’s a great competitor, I know, and I know he’ll go out there and do his best, and that’s what matters at the end of the day.
Q: What do you enjoy about playing in the Vols’ offense?
A: Playing in the offense, especially this offense, when (head coach) Josh Heupel came, I did my research. My family did their research and stuff like that. He’s been like top five for the last (few) years. I’m so excited with my ability to catch the ball, to get yards after the catch and deep ball threat, it’s just like it’s a dream come true playing in this offense, especially speaking for my receiver corps and also my tight ends. Like we’re really excited about this offense.We just put in the work every day, day by day, it’s getting better, and just waiting on Sept. 2nd.
Q: What stood out to you whenever you watched film of Coach Heupel’s offense at other places, and what is the excitement level of other receivers?
A: Watching film when he was at UCF, I realized from defenses it was definitely — this offense is definitely uptempo and I realized defenses had a lot of busted coverages. Also, defensive line being exhausted, having to rush over and over and over, which opens up the run game. So it’s a lot that comes with this offense and I know it’s like a difficult offense also to stop. So me and the receivers are definitely looking forward to fall camp and getting better each and every day, but I realize that it was difficult for defenses to make their calls and checks, and you know the littlest snap of the ball is probably six seconds off the clock. It’s fast paced, uptempo. So that’s where we’re definitely staying in shape.
Q: You played in a prolific offense under Jeff Kelly at Saraland and you had a lot of trust in him; he developed you, you were a very dynamic player in high school. How did Heupel and his staff kind of win your trust?
A: Jeff Kelly was a great coach. It was an honor playing for him at Saraland High School. He taught me a lot of things outside of football on how to be a man and making great decisions because, you know, your career is based off the decisions, from the rights, from the wrongs. I still go back and see that guy every chance I get when I go back home to Saraland. This offense is amazing, like I said before. Everybody that trusted in the process with Coach Heupel and the staff. It’s been up ever since he told us; he kept his word and he’s definitely going to push us to be our best, and so everybody’s bought in and everybody’s just working day by day.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much on that. We’re definitely looking forward to this offense.
Q: How challenging has it been to build continuity and timing with three different quarterbacks that could potentially be the starter this fall?
A: They’re all great quarterbacks. We get our work in. Yeah, we get a lot of the work in on our weekends and each quarterback has different traits to him. So that’s why it’s important to make sure you get in extra work because we all know you get better in the off-season, especially during the summer. I have confidence in each and every one of those quarterbacks that they can go out on Saturday and win the game for us, so we’re just going to keep putting in work.
Q: What about Coach Heupel’s personality off the field specifically that makes him so relatable that you guys have been able to build that over the offseason?
A: He has an amazing personality. He’s a real open guy. I feel comfortable going up there any time the second I need to. Just the whole staff is amazing. With Coach Heupel, he really interacts with the players a lot, always around us, whether it’s like tossing the football or coming in the weight room, checking on us, asking us about our personal lives, like he’s just an amazing guy. He’s always involved, he’s always around, you’re always seeing his face, so he’s a really likable guy. I’m so proud to go to war for that man this fall.
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