Former Patriots WR, Cedric Jones Interview
Cedric Jones played college football at Duke University. He entered the 1982 NFL Draft, and was selected in the 3rd round by the New England Patriots. He was a huge role player and possession wide receiver for the Patriots. He played in Super Bowl XX, but lost. Throughout his NFL career, he had 191 receptions, 2703 yards, and 16 touchdowns. This was a great interview! Make sure you give a read it a listen.
Strauss : What do you do now that you’re not in the NFL?
Jones : When I first retired I worked in finance down at Raleigh, North Carolina. Then, I worked fourteen years at the National Football League headquarters in Marketing from 1993 through 2007. Since then, I’ve been the director of the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.
Strauss : Have you ever thought about using social media to connect with fans?
Jones : No, not really. I’m kind of a generation after social media. But, I like the platform on Facebook and some other pages. I see all these things out there, like twitter . I’ve never really thought about it.
Strauss : Let’s go back into the beginning… If you didn’t play football, what were your plans?
Jones : Go to law school. I graduated from Duke University and I’d go to law school and hopefully become a lawyer.
Strauss : Did you have a childhood star?
Jones : Yeah, I was a big Cowboys fan. I liked Roger Staubauch [QB] and Drew Pearson [WR].
Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?
Jones : I was a four-sport star in high school. I played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. Football was probably the sport I liked the least. We had a very good team, we were undefeated my freshman year. The worst year was my sophomore year, we were seven and three. Then, we went nine and one, and then ten and zero. It was a good experience for us. We went to the state semifinals a couple times. We lost in the playoffs. I had a good high school experience.
Strauss : What was the transition like from high school to Duke?
Jones : Very different. I went to a small high school in Eastern North Carolina. Halifax County is the county. There are about 100 counties in the state. It was probably ranked 99 in literacy and poverty. It was a difficult county. But, the high school I went to had some great kids, sent kids to four-year institutions, and had some great teachers. But the transition was a little difficult. Because most of the kids at a school like Duke is very much a school like Mercersburg what the kids had gone through prepatory schools and great high schools and they were prepared for the college experience. I had to catch up a little bit, but I made the transition my freshman year and really enjoyed the experience.
Strauss : What was the hardest thing to do at Duke that you weren’t prepared from high school?
Jones : First, academically. The writing curriculum, I was at a high school where theatre and drama was the main focus. Writing was not. I had to catch up on writing. Also, to compete in the classroom. When you come from a small high school, and then attend a place like Duke or Stanford, a place like that, or Ivy-League schools, when you’re probably one of the smarter kids in your school. Then, you get to a school like Duke, and everyone is intelligent or more intelligent then you are, so you have to adjust that. But athletically, I had to gain strength. I weight 160 pounds when I graduated from high school. I was 6’1″, 160 pounds. I had to put on some size. I had to gain about twenty pounds my freshman year. I had to get stronger so I got in the weight room and I learned to compete on a level where everyone was as talented as you were, or more.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory from Duke?
Jones : I’d say probably my senior year. We had a winning season. We were six and five. It’s the first time Duke had a winning season in seventeen years. I made second-team All American. It was the culmination of a great freshman class I came in with. 22 freshmen and 11 of them were North Carolina students so it was a good time. That was probably my best memory.
Strauss : What was the most important thing you learned at Duke that helped you in the NFL?
Jones : I was fortunate that Steve Spurrier came to Duke as my offensive coordinator entering my sophomore year, junior, and senior year. He had been a pro quarterback and a coach at different levels. He installed the pro style offense. He taught us how to run our routes, how to compete as a wide receiver for every ball, and that you had to catch the ball not only when you were wide open which you are a lot in college, but you had to catch it when people arching back, and attacking the football on defense. That helped me when I went to the NFL, I knew how to run pro routes and how to understand the concept of a route-tree and audibles, and we had a very sophisticated offense, and that really helped me transition into the professional game.
Strauss : What was your whole draft day experience like?
Jones : The draft was much different when I was drafted then it is now. It was on cable television. I think my parents had to go from Weldon, North Carolina to Rocky Mount to watch it (laughs) in a store in the mall. I was going out that day to play in a basketball game with the ACC-All Stars. I was a very good basketball player in high school, and was on the team, my freshman year. I was going on a tour to play in a game, and before I walked out of the door, the Patriots Coach, Ron Meyer at the time, called me and said, “We drafted you with the first pick in the third round. We’d like you to play opposite Sammy Morgan.” I said, “That’s great! Thanks! I look forward to coming up.” He hung up and said, “Someone will contact you tomorrow to get you up here for the minicamp.” I was excited and looking forward to a pro career.
Strauss : What was the transition like from college to the NFL?
Jones : It was interesting. At Duke, I was always one of the top/best athletes. I was able to run faster than everybody and jump higher. When you get to the pros, everybody has that type of ability. Some guys are even more talented. Guys like Irving Fryar and Stanley Morgan were a little faster. But for me, it was learning how to run the routes against quality defensive backs, learning to separate from those defensive backs, and learning to catch the ball in traffic. I became a fourth string, possession receiver because I didn’t drop the ball. Everybody has to find their niche, not everyone is going to be a starter in the pros, once you get there, and not everyone’s going to be a perennial pro bowler. You have to develop a niche for yourself, and then, excel in that role.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory with the Patriots?
Jones : Probably the ’85 season when we ran the table and was a wildcard team and ran all the way to the Super Bowl and lost to the Bears. That’s probably my favorite memory with the guys. It was the fourth year in our class. It was a lot of fun. We just had not have won much or had much success at that time, and we were the first team to get there. That year was probably the most special year of my career in New England.
Strauss : What was the Super Bowl really like?
Jones : It was the only time in my life that I had ever been nervous in any athletic event. From grade school, I was always well-prepared. I was well-prepared for this game, but it was on a larger scale. Larger magnitude. I was nervous. And after… the score of the game, they won 46-10. I could say, I had great reason to be nervous (laughs). It was a lot of fun. My parents, sister, and brother-in-law flew down to New Orleans got to see the game. We had a great time, it was a great weekend! It was a once in a lifetime experience, some guys play their entire career and never play in a Super Bowl. I’m very fortunate to say that I’ve played in a Super Bowl, and at that time it was the most watched television show except for MASH.
Strauss : Do you remember the Super Bowl Shuffle, that Da’ Bears did? What was your view on that?
Jones : It was very cool. Very cutting edge. Very hip. We had a song as you could probably google it. The patriots song was very low key (laughs), no wonder why we lost. We put it together department week. But these guys, that did the Super Bowl shuffle song probably at the beginning of the year, third or fourth week into the season. It was cool. It was hip. It was rap. It worked for them.
Strauss : Who had the most impact on your career playing football?
Jones : Two guys, one was Steve Spurrier in college, and the other was Raymond Berry in the pros. Raymond was a hall of fame receiver and he became my head coach after my second year. Raymond taught us to become a student of the game, to understand what shoes to wear, what type of day you’re playing, where the sun was, windy, rainy, how to prepare as a pro. He talked about, winning a world championship everyday of practice and meetings. Nobody had ever done that, so he probably had the most profound effect on my career.
Strauss : I’ve read in a lot of places that you were the prime example of a leader player, what was your influence behind that?
Jones : Well, in sports, it’s a very tough job for a coach to bring together teams especially in the pros. You bringing together top athletes from all over the country, sometimes all over the world, you may have an international player. They are from every social and economic background. A coaches job and his staff is put together the best team, the best members, in where everybody has a role. The quicker you learn that there’s no me in the pro environment. I was All-American, always MVP of my team, but I come in, and I started for two years, and then they draft a kid named Irving Fryar who is first pick of the draft. Obviously, he was going to play, and Stanley Morgan was there, five years prior to me, potential Hall of Famer. You have to know your role. When they drafted Irving, Irving went to the other side. I became the third and wide, and I learned every position on the receiver. You have an X, A-Back in the slot, Y which is a tight end, and then the Z, and I was also a quarterback, learning all those positions and being interchangeable. Some guys can’t play different positions, they can only play X, they can only play A, or Y, or Z, so having the flexibility to do that and the intellect to do that, helped make me a team player. It was best for our organization to do that for me.
Strauss : Now-a-days, playbooks are so complex. I guarantee back then they were were too. What was it like learning the plays? You had to put a lot of time into that too…
Jones : Oh, of course, you had to become a student of the game. Everybody in the NFL runs the same thing, the guys still run the same plays we ran back then, the playbook was 500 pages. It was something that you had a passion for… studying and comprehending it was very easy. Now, obviously some guys studied more then others. Some guys, coaches, general managers, are in a chess match. Sometimes you prepare for a team and you’re looking at film. Then the team, defensively, is preparing for formations. Sometimes they are preparing for personnel. Sometimes, they are preparing to have a base defense to play in. It’s a chess match. Sometimes you guess right in your preparation and sometimes your flat wrong in your preparation. Then, you make adjustments at halftime. It’s a great chess match when you play a team.
Strauss : Did you have a nickname when you were playing football?
Jones : A lot of guys called me “Clutch” because I made clutch catches. “CJ” or “Clutch”.
Strauss : What was the most important thing that got you through your playing career?
Jones : Well, I think my approach to preparation for the season. I was always in great shape. Sometimes there are five to nine wide receivers going into training camp and some days guys get injured or become ineligible. I think when you’re in great shape, you tend to heal faster, and rebound quicker. Obviously, I was with a great organization. Then, just the desire that I really wanted to compete against the best in the world. When you play pro sports, I think it’s the one time you can say in your life, “I compete against the best in the world.” Because these guys are the best at their positions in the world. If you’re a famous doctor, and it’s someone’s opinion that you’re the best heart surgeon, best cardiologist, best brain surgeon, or the best orthopedic surgeon. If you make the Pro Bowl, if you lead the league in catches, you’re the best wide receiver in the National Football League.
Strauss : Do you have a charity or a foundation?
Jones : No, but I do a lot of work with Beyond the Burrows. It’s a charity that gives a scholarship every year to inner-city kids across the country. It provides five of those scholarships for kids.
Strauss : For someone who wants to play in the NFL, what’s the best advice you can give them?
Jones : The best advice I could give them, if they are high school kids or if even youth football kids who are looking to play in the NFL, is understand the game. Use the sport, whether it’s football, basketball, to allow you to get a quality education because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s great to have a dream. It’s great to prepare of that dream, but dreams didn’t always come true. Every kid that wants to play has got to give everything he’s got. There’s always a place to play in college even if you can’t play Division 1, you can play division 2, division 3. If you’re good enough, the scouts will find you. You want to work your tail off if you want to become a great player. You got a find a good opportunity. Go for it with all the gusto, but most importantly make sure you have a good education to fall back on.
Strauss : Is there anything you want to tell fans that we haven’t talked about?
Jones : For fans of the NFL and football, it’s one of the greatest sports that God had ever created because it’s the ultimate team sport. The fans out there are what makes the sport so great. It’s grown exponentially from when I played to now, with the the draft becoming it’s own brand, the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl. I was fortunate to be a part of it. I hope the fans when they watch a game, they get their money’s worth.
Strauss : One last question, who’s your favorite player to watch in the NFL right now?
Jones : That’s a tough question. There are guys I like to watch. Hm. There are probably a couple. I enjoy watching Larry Fitzgerald–the way he works, the way he approaches the game as a wide receiver. At quarterback, obviously Peyton Manning and Tom Brady–those guys are great to watch.
Strauss : Thank you so much for your time Mr. Jones.
Jones : Alright, Max, anytime. Thank you. Good luck.