Four years ago, there were two names that sat atop the Central Florida recruiting rankings for the Class of 2010.
Lake Howell’s Christian Jones and Dr. Phillips’ Kenny Shaw were the top two players in the Sentinel’s Central Florida Top 100 – which has evolved into the Super60 – and on Sunday Jones and Shaw were posing for their final team picture together at Florida State’s media day.
The two seniors, who were both Under Armour High School All-Americans, have had a big impact in college and are looking to go out with a bang in their final college season. They both also have big NFL aspirations.
It was fun Sunday to reflect back with the two Seminoles, who were part of a class that also included players like Notre Dame cornerback Lo Wood Jr. (Notre Dame), who was ranked No. 4 in Central Florida, and UCF quarterback Blake Bortles (Oviedo), who was No. 8 that year, and Purdue’s All-Big Ten corner Ricardo Allen (Daytona Beach Mainland), who was No. 9.
The top 10 also included Georgia safety Marc Deas (Osceola), Louisville TE B.J. Butler (Osceola), Iowa State RB Shontrelle Johnson (DeLand), Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian (Olympia) and current NFL free agent O.J. Ross of Mainland. Ross was dismissed by new Purdue coach Darrell Hazel in February.
Jones, a 2013 preseason choice for All-ACC linebacker, made second team All-ACC last season, when he led the team with 95 tackles, which was good for seventh in the conference.
He moves to middle linebacker for the first time this season in the defensive alignment of new FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
“I still can’t believe I’m a senior this year,” Jones said. “It’s just exciting to remember where I came from … Lake Howell to Florida State and before I was at Lake Howell I was at Orangewood Christian and I even used to tell the guys that one day, ‘I’m going to Florida State.’ … I’ve always been a Florida State fan, and just looking back and being here now … It’s crazy.”
He enters his third year as a starter and he’s the third in a family of Seminoles. His father, Willie Jones Sr., and brother, Willie Jones Jr., both also played at FSU. Dad also played with the Raiders in the NFL.
The youngest Jones almost didn’t come back for his senior season. The NFL was beckoning and he had to weigh his options.
“It was a tough decision, especially when you have always had dreams of playing at the highest level and the opportunity was presenting itself,” Jones said. “I thought hard about it even after the Orange Bowl. I was back and forth, maybe I should go, maybe I shouldn’t … and then I felt my parents gave me the best advice. They said, ‘If you’re not certain, maybe you should just come back.’ … and they were right. It’s going to pay off in the long run.
“I also felt like if I left, I would have left a lot of things on the table and I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to showcase a lot of things I can do here with this defense.”
One other thing that helped draw him back was the chance to win a ring. With FSU usually in the BCS title conversation to start each season, Seminoles players know there is always that chance they could be in the spotlight come January. They’ve under-achieved in regards to BCS expectations over the past two seasons, but this season could be that year FSU sneaks up on people.
Shaw’s eyes light up when he talks about the BCS championship ring. It’s obvious he wants one badly. He too is in his third season as a key FSU contributor. He caught 33 balls for 532 yards and three touchdowns last season. He’s just shy of 1,000 yards for his career (986).
“We should be lights out this season,” Shaw said of he and his fellow receivers like Rashad Green and Kelvin Benjamin. “We’re trying to win that ring. We get into that championship game and win it, then all the boys can eat.”
They’ve posted pictures on the Dr. Phillips weight room wall of the Panthers’ All-Americans and Shaw’s photo is there with Marcell Harris, Nick Patti, Trey Griffey, Dee Hart and HaHa Clinton-Dix. If gives future DP stars something toward which to strive.
“It’s always a good thing to be a blessing to someone else,” Shaw said, “but anytime any kid comes up to me and says he wants to be like me, I just say, ‘Hey, be like yourself. ... be better than me.’ “
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun