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PSU has 'special' player, in more ways than one
Reggie Jones can play on both sides of the ball
Portland State wide receiver Reggie Jones bounced off the turf midway through last week’s first scrimmage of spring practice and held up the football.
“Who’s going to guard me?” Jones hollered. “Who’s going to guard ME!?”
A few of the Vikings’ defensive players along the sideline quickly piped up, encouraging teammates to make Jones pay for his audacity, but it was no contest.
Jones, the 6-foot, 200-pound, trash-talking senior who transferred to PSU from the University of Idaho last fall, continued to get past defenders and caught almost every pass thrown his way.
And he talked. And talked some more.
As much as Jones rubbed some of the Vikings’ defensive players the wrong way, they know he’s one of their own – even when he isn’t. As the rare college player penciled in for duty on both sides of the ball, Jones is likely to be the Vikings’ starting left cornerback for the Aug. 30 season opener against Western Oregon at PGE Park, working as needed at wide receiver and on special teams.
“I think he’s going to be special, really,” PSU coach Jerry Glanville said. “And it doesn’t matter where he plays.”
Georgia’s Champ Bailey, Florida State’s Deion Sanders and Michigan’s Charles Woodson all made an impact as occasional two-way players before moving on to successful pro careers, and Glanville said Jones has some of the same characteristics.
“There’s no question Reggie is a good enough athlete,” Glanville said. “He’s also got a great heart, he’s got integrity and inner spirit. . . . He’s got everything you’re looking for.”
And if Jones comes off as egocentric or runs his mouth from time to time, Glanville has no problem with that, either.
“I’ve never had a good cornerback play for me anywhere that didn’t have a little arrogance,” Glanville said. “You want a corner to say, ‘I’m the guy. Let’s get it on.’ You don’t play corner if you’re a shy guy.”
Nickname is “Showtime”
Not Jones, who picked up the nickname, “Showtime,” at Kent-Meridian High School in Kent, Wash., where he lettered in football, baseball, swimming and track and field.
Jones was recruited by Oregon but struggled to pass the SAT and ended up at Idaho, where he played cornerback, learning much of what he knows about the position from Vandals assistant Alundis Brice, now PSU’s secondary coach.
“I came in as a freshman and was real cocky, and Coach Brice was like, ‘Who are you?’ ” Jones said. “And what he did was he brought me down to build me back up. And I love him for it.”
As for talking trash, Jones said that’s just something he has done for as long as he can remember.
“I don’t consider myself over the top when it comes to talking,” Jones said. “But if you talk to me, I’m going to talk back and I’m going to get the last word – verbally and physically.
“If I couldn’t back it up, I wouldn’t be talking.”
Jones played parts of three seasons with the Vandals but struggled with ankle and knee injuries, as well as in the classroom, and was forced to transfer before the start of the 2007-08 season because of academic issues.
He landed at Portland State but was not immediately eligible because of new NCAA restrictions regarding senior transfers, who are now required to sit out a season when switching from Division I to Division I-AA.
The time off from competition proved invaluable, though, on at least two fronts. First, it gave his body time to heal. Second, Jones got more serious about the work he’s doing toward a degree in sociology, earning a 3.44 grade-point average during the fall semester and a 3.00 GPA in the winter.
Jones also practiced all fall with the Vikings, working out mostly as a scout team receiver.
“I’d go hard on every repetition,” Jones said. “My goal was to get the defensive backs cussed out for me beating them, because I knew it would make them better on game day. That was actually fun for me. The actual game itself, when I couldn’t suit up and I was just on the sideline watching, that’s when it was hard.”
Emphasis on defense
This spring, Jones has been splitting his time, working out with the defensive backs one week, the wide receivers the next. The emphasis, though, is on the defensive side, which Brice, a former NFL cornerback, said plays more to Jones’ strengths.
“With his feet, work ethic, size and speed, Reggie is a natural defensive back,” Brice said. “And that’s where his heart is.
“I know he wants to be a special player. He wants to be on the other side of the ball, too. He wants to be that guy that’s always needed. And for the first time since high school, he is that guy.”
Jordan Brown, who is moving from left cornerback to free safety to help make room for Jones, said Jones is a welcome addition.
“He’s the type of guy we didn’t have last year – a pure, lock-down corner,” Brown said. “He can press you, he can run with you in coverage, and he has the ability to make that big play that some of the guys we had playing corner couldn’t make.”
It’s hard to say how much Jones will be needed on offense. The Vikings have six more receivers coming in the fall, and offensive coordinator Mouse Davis said how fast some of them adapt to the run-and-shoot will help determine Jones’ role.
“We’ll get him a few snaps now and then, and we like that, but we don’t anticipate getting him too much,” Davis said. “What I’m trying to do is get him a few routes that he knows, so we can plug him in as we go. . . .
“I don’t plan to have him too much, but we want the kid to believe that he’s going to be an important part of our deal, too.”
Next week, Jones will go back to practicing with the offense, but what about the May 10 spring game at PGE Park? Will Jones play offense or defense?
“Both, I hope,” Jones said.
By Jim Beseda