FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When New England Patriots players gathered behind the scenes this season and conversations turned from the details of the weekly game plan to the bigger picture, quarterback Mack Jones says an important theme emerged.
“We talk a lot here about the legacy around our building,” he said. “I think we did a good job this year, we played more than you. It can be a person, a group of people, or something you are passionate about.”
It’s been a tough season for the 7-7 Patriots, who suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday when they turned a shocking sideline game in the final seconds. Jones steamed into the performance, the latest in a series of gut punches he’s absorbed this year.
He was a Pro Bowl alternate as a rookie in 2021. This season, in addition to missing three games with a sprained left high ankle, his stats have dipped without Josh McDaniels — now the Raiders’ head coach — on offense. coordinator.
This helps in part to explain why the discussion of legacies has caught on with players.
Jones, 24, has a clear vision of what he wants to be: a positive role model and resource for the next generation of quarterbacks.
With the help of his personal mentor and shooting coach, Joe Dickinson, whom he met at age 8 and refers to as family, Jones has developed a bond throughout the year with a group of high school officers who know he is being watched closely. He texts with them regularly and practices with them in the off-season.
They met at “QB School,” and Jones says that gives him good fuel during the NFL season.
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QB School This is not a structured camp, but rather an informal gathering of quarterbacks. He could be in session anywhere during the NFL offseason, but if there’s a consistent home field for their workouts, it’s in Aledo, Texas. Jones loves it there because of the heat, with temperatures sometimes reaching triple digits. There is often wind too.
“So it’s good practice for the season,” he said.
Aledo is also the hometown of House Hedge, a junior blue-chip prospect Jones believes will be playing big-time college football soon after leading his team to the 5A state championship on Saturday.
They first connected through Dickinson, a former college assistant and QB consultant at Oklahoma with the Buffalo Bills who served as a youth quarterback for decades. Jones now considers the Hedges part of his family. He spoke to the Aledo High School team before the 2022 season and shared a message that they should play for each other, especially the seniors who are playing their final season.
Other members of Jones’ informal “QB School” include Major Cantrell of Washington, Oklahoma; Gage Chance of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Creed Barrett of Washington, Oklahoma, among others.
“I write them. I stay with them,” Jones says. “Coach D is the head of everything. He really does that for me, giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge. It’s cool to see him carry on the legacy and maybe one day when I’m done playing I can help the kids the way he helps me.
“Obviously I love training with the pro guys, but it’s good to always have a group of young guys wherever I am — Texas, Oklahoma, California. “I don’t want to say it’s like camp, but I like when kids want to get better and work hard and not worry about social media and stuff like that.”
Last season, Jones invited several Patriots teammates to join him in Aledo, with defensive backs Ramondre Stevenson and Ty Montgomery and receivers Christian Wilkerson and Lil Jordan Humphrey among those in attendance.
Stevenson took note of how Jones interacted with young people.
“He was a leader and just wanted everybody to be better. He wasn’t there saying, ‘I’m an NFL quarterback, I’m doing this, I’m doing that!’ .
Adds Dickinson, “Mack is constantly trying to improve his weak points. He always wants to improve his skills and show these other guys how much commitment it takes to be truly great. They can get their hands on it and see it because it’s playing on “Monday Night Football.” They are all eyes and ears when he speaks. “
Jones is passionate about helping young quarterbacks, but admits he has experience as well. It connects him to another period of his life.
“I don’t know what it is, but when you’re young, you still have it [mindset]: ‘We are here to train, but also to have fun.’ We always try to do it together and keep the childlike joy in the game of football,” he said.
That’s what Jones remembers about his formative youth in Jacksonville, Fla., and how almost anything involving a right-handed football brought him happiness. It’s also about how he first met Dickinson, who oversaw his own “QB school” for 15 years with DeBartolo Sports and says his mission was to “bring a positive environment and culture.”
Jones, 8, was tagging along with her family at the Saddlebrook Resort in suburban Tampa, where her sister Sarah Jane was competing in a tennis tournament. In the distance, Jones saw a group of kids tossing a football around on a turf field and walked over to get a closer look.
“Can you jump?” Jones asked.
“Sure, no problem,” Dickinson replied.
Dickinson wasn’t about to let a son with such chutzpah run away. Jones soon became a regular, his parents Gordon and Holly became close to Dickinson as well, and the bond between them quickly became familial.
“That’s how we met; Complete coincidence. Who would have thought that we would still be connected today? I want to say best friends,” says Jones.
There is a picture of Jones and Dickinson from those early years, and it brings a smile to Jones’ face.
“You hardly even know me. “Look at my hair,” she says, pointing to her 12-year-old self with long, blonde locks and braces on her teeth. “This is from the camp. I just kept coming back. “
Jones has been around for a long time He trusted Dickinson to train him and he appreciates the way he interacts with him. But when the QB School meets, Dickinson is usually more of an overseer of the process than an assistant coach.
“He kind of lets me do my thing, but I’m always asking him if he sees something that’s glaringly obvious with me that I might need to fix,” Jones says. “So we’ll go through drills and it’s basically ‘anyone who wants to jump with me can come in.’
Hedges, who already has scholarship offers from Nebraska and North Texas, isn’t hesitating.
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“During the exercises, attention is paid to details and pace. Mack usually throws shoulder pads and a helmet,” he says. “He likes to finish off the QB with wind sprints to show the wide receivers that he’s going to run just as well as them. Then we usually meet at the hotel, where we will study cinema.”
That mental part of the game, and how Jones approaches it, has impressed young quarterbacks.
The Cantrell, Washington, Oklahoma, native, who posted a 29-1 record as a freshman and recently won a state championship in his junior season, marvels at Jones’ recall of past games and how he displays situational awareness.
“He can tell you what happened [2020 season NCAA] The national championship game, first and 10, and what a defense Ohio State was. Were they in high security? he says of the former Alabama quarterback. “One thing that stands out to me is that I’ve learned how he prepares — not just physically, but mentally.”
It’s part of the legacy Jones says he’s playing for, reminding himself of his own youth watching Oklahoma State quarterback Dax Garman, and remembering how neat it was when a Jacksonville Jaguars player could come talk to his team. School of Bol.
“I was there [as a kid]. And for the parents too, I talk to a lot of them when you’re training. “They may ask for advice that I can offer—whether it’s nutrition, shooting motion, or school,” Jones says.
Hopefully in 2-3 years they will be the headliners, the best players in college football. And from there they go to the NFL. Then comes the next group of boys.”
Chance, an eighth-grader from Oklahoma City, spoke of Jones’ intense focus on mechanics. At the end of one “QB School” session, Chance says Jones spent half an hour correcting his hand position on the football.
“A small adjustment that made a big difference,” he says.
Barrett, the Washington-Oklahoma linebacker who took a recruiting visit to Jones’ alma mater Alabama, said he was amazed at how Jones was with him, offering his gear to help with the release.
“I’m just very passionate about the younger kids, just because I’ve been there. I was always trying to get that scrap,” Jones says. “So it’s all about bringing that knowledge back and helping them get better.”