Derrick Jonesâ€™ career as a high school wide receiver with the Eupora Eagles may be winding down, but the senior does have one last game left before he hangs up his prep cleats.
On Saturday, Jones will suit up alongside some of Mississippiâ€™s best, including eight Dandy Dozen selections, for the 26th Mississippi-Alabama all-star game in Montgomery, Ala.
Upon his selection for the game, Jones spoke of his excitement and just what the honor of selection means to him.
â€śItâ€™s a blessing to play in such a big game,â€ť Jones said. â€śI am excited to be counted among the best in the state and to get to play with such talented guys. I just want to get out there and play.â€ť
Euporaâ€™s coach Junior Graham spoke earlier in the year on why he felt Jonesâ€™ was an All-Star caliber player and what it has meant to coach the wide receiver throughout the years.
â€śWe have known all along how talented Derrick was,â€ť Graham said. â€śItâ€™s been refreshing to see him come into his own and start performing to the level we knew he was capable of. He has become one of those players that takes routine plays and turns them into big-time producing plays.â€ť
After a season that saw Jones lead his Eagle teammates to the Class 2A State championship game, it is clear that he has figured out what it takes to be an All-Star and just as Graham said, Jones has learned to take the routine and make it extraordinary.
Looking at this season alone, Jones was responsible for 120 of the Eagles' points with 20 touchdowns. In his main role as wide receiver, the senior picked up 975 yards on 44 receptions, but Jones did not stop there. He continued his offensive prowess by accumulating 125 yards on 14 rushes.
Jones also lined up as defensive back where he was responsible for 34 solo tackles and added another five assists. The seniorsâ€™ receiving skills also came in handy on defense as Jones intercepted opposing quarterbacks six times.
The toughness Jones shows on the field was not always present as Graham saw first hand.
â€śIt has been fun to watch Derrick mature,â€ť Graham said. â€śIn previous years, he did not show as much toughness, but this year, he has really stepped it up and matured both mentally and physically.â€ť
Committed to the University of Mississippi, the mental and physical maturities that Jones has experienced this season will certainly aide him as he moves forward in his athletic career.
While he is certainly looking forward to playing for coach Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss, for the moment Jones is simply focusing on making his hometown proud.
â€śEupora means a lot to me,â€ť Jones said. â€śThis community has given me a lot and they want you to be the best you can be. They expect a lot from me and I want to make them proud no matter what I am doing.â€ť
Jones will get his chance to make Eupora proud on Saturday as the game kicks off at noon. Locally televised on WTVA, the game can also be viewed statewide on various ABC affiliates.
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