Jones and others prepare for the spotlight of 2017 NFL draft

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File Photo The Propector

Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

The week that every NFL hopeful anxiously awaits, NFL draft week is finally here. This year, there are multiple ex-Miners, who will be hoping to get a call from an organization and get a chance to play at a higher level.

For these NFL hopefuls, it takes months of preparation, training and getting in communication with professional scouts to gauge where they are desired.

Since announcing that he would forgo his senior season for the NFL, former standout running back Aaron Jones has been busy getting his name known on the draft leaderboards. He has competed on the grandest stage at the NFL Combine, which raised the eyebrows of many scouts.

“It feels good to finally get some recognition for my play knowing that I’m not at a bigger school and they’re taking notice,” said Jones, who has already met with eight different teams. “I think the combine really helped with that and now I’m just taking advantage of it.”

Jones has been under a demanding, rigorous schedule in the weeks leading up to the draft. While most football players his age are finishing up their spring season, Jones is on a strict workout routine.

Each day, Jones wakes up, gets treatment from trainers, works out with the UTEP football team, gets more treatment, works out again with his younger cousins’ Burges High School basketball team, rests in the evening and repeats it the next day.

“I still feel like the same player,” Jones said. “I’m still working hard and doing everything I had been doing.”

Joining Jones on the draft list representing UTEP are tight ends Hayden Plinke and Kent Taylor, linebacker Nick Usher and fullback Darrin Laufasa.

All have been training, working out in their own respective ways and anxiously awaiting any call at a chance at the NFL draft.

“It’s been my dream ever since I was a little kid,” Jones said. “I felt like I was ready for this new obstacle in my life and I felt like I did everything I wanted to do here at UTEP, except winning a conference championship. I just decided it was time for me.”

Unlike other UTEP athletes, Jones was given the opportunity to train at the EXOS football training camp this off-season. At the facility, Jones trained alongside some of college football’s greats such as Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Michigan’s Jabril Peppers and Stanford’s Noor Davis.

“I saw all the athletes and realized that it was time to put in some work,” Jones said. “We were out there competing each day and I was feeding off them and learning new workout strategies.”

Although they did not go to the EXOS training camp, Usher and Plinke were able to showcase their talents at the College Football NFLPA Bowl. Usher finished the game with six tackles and even forced a fumble.

According to nflscout.com, Usher is ranked 57 of 189 linebackers, Plinke at 33 of 105 tight ends, Taylor at 57 of 105 tight ends and Laufasa at 17 of 74 fullbacks.

“I love training, but I’m ready to get back to football,” said Plinke, who is currently training at a Seattle facility.

Jones has also been very driven to continue his training because of what’s to come after the draft.

“Rookie minicamp is coming up, so I have to get ready for that,” Jones said.

Jones, who has talked with teams such as Green Bay, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New England, is very open-minded when talking about what teams he wants to sign with.

Although he hopes to get drafted in the third through sixth rounds, he does not care what team he gets drafted to as long as he gets picked up.

Jones does not have any guarantee from a team, rather he has been hearing from new teams each day.

“It changes every day (for teams that are interested),” Jones said. “Now I’m hearing from teams, who I hadn’t heard from throughout this whole process. They always say you’re going to end up with a team you never talk to.”

The NFL draft will span from Thursday, April 27, beginning with the first round up until the later rounds on Friday and Saturday.