Dominique Jones’ rise to the NFL was not easy path. The former Reading Express Wide Receiver was not a first round draft pick, he did not come from a college “football factory”, and he did not have the picturesque route to the NFL most players have.
Yet Dominique Jones suits up, straps the Indianapolis Colts’ helmet on, and lines up everyday next to the likes of NFL superstars Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and the 2012 NFL Draft First Overall Pick Andrew Luck.
Two weeks ago during the NFL's Kick-Off Weekend, Jones stood in the bowels of Chicago’s Soldier Field as he heard the din of 60,000 screaming fans. Ready as fresh faced NFL rookie could be, he sprinted out from the tunnel, stepped out onto an NFL field for his first NFL game against the Chicago Bears , and took in the moment.
“It was a real thriller. I was just happy to be blessed by God. It was just a real good feeling”, Jones said.
Now a Tight End, Jones was signed by the Colts on May 1st, fought through Training Camp, and made the Colts’ 53-man roster.
All of that hard work payed off when on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage vs. the Bears, QB Andrew Luck play action faked and then hit Jones for an eight-yard gain. It was the first catch of Jones’ career, the first catch of the Colt’s 2012 season as well as Andrew Luck’s first-ever pass completion. Jones played off the possible historical significance of the play.
“It was just another play. I just went out to the best of my ability and tried to beat the man in front of me. It was the first catch of my career. Catching it from Andrew was just another plus”, added Jones.
The IFL has seen several players move on and become stars or solid contributors at the NFL level during its existence. Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson, Miami Dolphins WR Anthony Armstrong and FB Jovorski Lane, as well as Jones can all claim time in the IFL helped them get to their place today.
But the travels did not always come easy.
“We play for the love of the game,” said Jones. “We try and work the hardest and good things happen. Every day we go out and try and get better.”
Jones hails from Division II Sheperd College. As a senior, Jones tallied 34 receptions, 403 yards and nine touchdowns. He helped lead his team to the Division II National semi-finals and a school-record 12 wins. For his performance, Jones earned third-team All-America honors and second –team all conference honors.
After college, Jones attended and was signed after open tryouts for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions, coached by ex-NFL coach Dennis Green. In the UFL, Jones proceeded to turn heads. He quickly got a workout with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately, he was not signed by the Eagles, but managed to impress scouts who would eventually land in Indianapolis.
After the UFL’s season concluded Jones got a call from a former Sheperd College teammate in Michael Lux. Lux was the Defensive Coordinator for the Reading Express and asked Jones if he wanted to stay in shape and join the Express.
Adopting to the indoor game was a new challenge for Jones.
“It is so much smaller with its use of hockey walls. Not to mention I had never played wide receiver”, he stated.
Regardless, Jones went on to accumulate 349 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in just seven games. His biggest game came against the Bloomington Edge on April 21, where he accumulated eight receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones attributed some of his current skills to skills he learned while in the IFL.
“I learned about how to be a wide receiver,” he said. “I worked on my quickness and tried to get better at running routes.”
After years of perseverance Jones attributed success to two things.
“Stay humble and stay hungry”
As he runs across the Colts logo stationed at midfield in front of 60,000+ fans this weekend he will think back on all the years of hard work and just one thing will be echoing through his head.
“I finally made it,” he said.
View one of Jones' spectacular plays as a Colt here.