The Denver Broncos signed defensive tackle DJ Jones to a three-year deal, but his journey to his biggest pay day yet is a pretty unique story.
Jones was forced to switch high schools early on after the football program fell apart at his first high school. Due to having bad grades, Jones was unable to play for one of the top universities in the country. Instead, Jones was forced to attend East Mississippi Community College where he became one of the top recruits in the country.
While starting for two straight seasons at EMCC, Jones would lead the Lions to back-to-back undefeated seasons including two national championships in 2013-14. In those two seasons, Jones totaled up 12 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.
After his dominant 2014 season, Jones was listed as the No. 3 junior college prospect by ESPN.com and received 16 offers from power five schools.
In July of 2014, Jones committed to Florida St. and then decommitted after having a second visit with Ole Miss in November of 2014. Jones then committed and signed his letter of intent with the Rebels. Jones would eventually end up playing alongside future first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche.
In his two seasons with Ole Miss, Jones recorded just six sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. While at Ole Miss, Jones’ squad would go on and defeat Oklahoma St. in the Sugar Bowl during his first season. Ole Miss also upset the No. 2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide earlier that season.
While playing for Ole Miss in the SEC, Jones would end up reuniting with a familiar face that quarterbacked his EMCC Lions. That gun-slinger was Chad Kelly, who would eventually be drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2017.
Starting every game in his final season at Ole Miss, the Rebels would have a down year finishing with a 5-7 overall record. Without being able to participate in a bowl game as a senior, Jones would be on his way to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Jones wound up getting drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth-round with the 198th overall pick.
Improving year by year, Jones would become a valuable piece along the San Francisco defensive line. He dominated backup offensive lineman in the early days and he became noticed as he climbed the depth chart.
While starting at least double-digit games over the past three seasons, Jones has recorded seven sacks, 99 tackles, and three forced fumbles.
In 2021, Jones signed a one-year prove it deal worth $3.5 million to remain with San Francisco.
After a strong and fully healthy 2021 season, Jones’ numbers more than doubled from his previous season. Jones’ tackles increased from 20 to 56. His solo tackles increased from 14 to 40 including a career high 10 tackles for loss. Starting in every single game also proved that Jones could play and keep his name among some of the best interior defensive linemen in the game.
Last season, Jones ranked only second to Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald in tackles for loss or no gain among interior defensive lineman. Jones finished with 14 while Donald had 17.
Due to a career season in 2021, Jones would receive the biggest payday of his life from the Broncos. On March 17, Denver signed Jones to a $30M contract.
Broncos GM George Paton mentioned in a presser just a couple of weeks ago that Denver “needed to improve their run defense” due to the fact that the Broncos struggled getting off the field and closing out games last season.
Paton described Jones as “one of the better run defenders in the league and he can rush the passer as well.”
Who would’ve thought that a young man from South Carolina would end up playing college football for a small town with a population of 700 people and overcome all of the odds to become one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL?
The Broncos are lucky to have DJ Jones.