Jim's Notebook: Matt Jones Now Settled In Central Arkansas, Talking Razorbacks

by Jim Harris  on Monday, Sep. 10, 2012 3:00 pm  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Matt Jones may be the most enigmatic Arkansas Razorback football player of modern times and he made some of the biggest plays in Hog history. And he obviously still captures the fans' imagination. The Embassy Suites ballroom wasn't ready to handle all of the overflow crowd on hand to catch Jones' visit with the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday.

No doubt, though, many of the club's membership also wanted to hear what Jones and club president David Bazzel had to say about previously No. 8-ranked Arkansas' stunning loss Saturday to Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Monroe 34-31 in overtime.

Jones told the crowd the closest he could relate to a heart-wrenching loss and having to immediately regroup was the 2002, six-overtime loss at Tennessee. That dropped Arkansas to 1-3 in the SEC, but the Razorbacks came back the next week for an upset at Auburn, finished the year on a roll and winning their way into the SEC Championship Game with the "Miracle on Markham" 21-20 victory over LSU.

Of course, this 1-1 Razorback team, now out of the national polls, must take on No. 1 Alabama in Fayetteville on Saturday.

"I know Louisiana-Monroe isn't Tennessee, but what I would tell the players is, don't give up, don't lose hope," Jones said. "Put up a fight. Don't forget the off-season and all you put into it, the blood, sweat and tears. Keep giving it all you've got."

MADE FOR QUARTERBACK: Jones said the transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver was his most difficult task as an athlete, but he finished on a good note at Jacksonville with the Jaguars, catching 67 passes in 2009 before being released the next year.

He said he had hoped to catch on with another NFL team and, at the end, had to choose between tryouts with Cincinnati and Tennessee.

"Did I want to catch passes from Carson Palmer in Cincinnati or Vince Young in Tennessee," he said. The choice was the Titans, but Jones did not catch on there.

"I guess I made the wrong decision," he said.

But who knows what Jones could have done as a professional quarterback, if given the chance, had he not suffered a torn labrum in college that cut his passing distance, he said, from 75 yards as a freshman to 55 yards by the time he finished. He recorded an electronically timed 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Everyone can still recall how, as a freshman, he outdueled Ole Miss' Eli Manning in 2001 in what was then the longest overtime game in NCAA history.

"I'm a quarterback at heart," he said.

Jones, surely one of the best athletes this state has produced in the past century, also imagined at one time playing basketball professionally.



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