BEREA — The questions are beyond annoying to tackle Dawand Jones. Despite turning down a basketball scholarship at Kent State to play football — eventually at Ohio State — he was asked throughout the draft process if he loves football.
He said he’d answer in the affirmative, then direct general managers, coaches and scouts to watch his play with the Buckeyes.
“I told almost every team, turn on the tape and you can just see it on my film,” Jones, a fourth-round pick, said Friday as the Browns started rookie minicamp. “I play with that anger and aggression, it just comes from the heart. You just don’t want nobody to touch the quarterback.”
A different set of videos was all the proof Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye needed. He was new to Ohio State and on vacation last summer before the start of camp.
“They have some downtime and he’s sending me video of himself at his high school field, working pass set drills and some things and then saying, ‘Coach, what do you think? Was this good? What should I do?’” Frye told The Chronicle-Telegram by phone this week. “So he’s working the game. You don’t do that stuff unless you want to.”
Jones, who stands out among giants at 6-foot-8 and 374 pounds, said the offseason work was part of his concerted effort to show he’s not a “basketball player.”
“I just wanted to prove to everybody that I love football. And I’m tired of doing that and I just feel like this year is a statement of what I’ve got to leave on the field,” he told The Chronicle.
He left a little extra on the field Friday during a one-hour practice. He vomited after a drill and spent time talking to the head athletic trainer. He returned to drills but struggled with stamina as veteran line coach Bill Callahan critiqued every move.
“He’s doing just fine,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.
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Jones told The Chronicle before practice he was limited during the offseason by inflammation in a toe that still hurts.
“I’ll be all right, but they’ll probably give me orthotics,” he said.
The runup to the draft hurt Jones’ stock. He left the Senior Bowl after one practice and said he was diagnosed with a concussion. He didn’t work out or weigh in at Ohio State’s heavily attended pro day, citing the toe.
— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) May 12, 2023
“Kinda hurt my footing, some teams thought I sat out just ’cause,” he said of the Senior Bowl. “After that, I just had a real bad injury, I just didn’t want to chance anything. I took some penalty for it but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t take the penalty.”
Jones was asked if sliding to the fourth round motivates him.
“I just got to put my head down and work,” he said. “It was shocking, in my opinion, but you got to control what you can control honestly.”
The frustration reached a boiling point after the draft. He had been projected as a potential first- or second-round pick and reacted to a report he had slipped because he told teams his dream is to play in the NBA.
“False like where do y’all get this information from,” he tweeted.
“It was just a crazy tweet,” Jones said. “The question was just different during the interviews. I just feel like it’s just writing the real truth. And I’m not going to speak on it, but it just wasn’t right, in my opinion.
“I’m not going to just sit there and not say nothing. I feel like I didn’t go overboard and I just said it wasn’t true and I feel like I handled it like a man.”
He was prepared for the questions and said he handled them well — not like was portrayed.
“When that tweet came out, it just kind of caught me off-guard,” he said. “I talked about it in almost every meeting, that I love football. I’d basically give the shirt off my back for football and I just feel like it just didn’t get across and I feel like it finally got across when I tweeted.”
Center Luke Wypler, who was drafted by the Browns in the sixth round, knows Jones well from their days at Ohio State.
“He’s a great person, loves football,” Wypler said. “I know what kind of teammate he is and what kind of player he is, and the Browns got really lucky to be able to get him.”
Jones started 25 games at right tackle his final two years in Columbus and was a second-team All-American in 2022. He made his first college start at left tackle in 2020, will train on both sides and spent much of Friday at left tackle.
The Browns love his potential and that he’ll be coached by Callahan, whom they consider the best line coach in the league. Jones shouldn’t be forced into action prematurely, with right tackle Jack Conklin and left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. under contract for at least two more years.
“We think he is a young, talented guy. A work in progress, like a lot of the guys that come into the league,” general manager Andrew Berry said during the draft. “It’s hard to find someone that has that rare of size and also his movement skills. We do think he’s a lump of clay that we can really develop here.”
The basketball background may be a touchy subject but it’s relevant when considering Jones’ athleticism at his size. At least some of it can be attributed to his time on the court.
“I don’t think you ever will see another guy his size be able to move the way he does,” Wypler said. “So, yeah, he’s a freak. He’s a unicorn.”
“If you are that big, you can’t run through him, if you are that long, it’s hard to run around him,” Frye said. “And then you add the technique to it, he’s got a shot to be a really good player.”
Jones said he was “2 percent close” to traveling the basketball path, turning down the Kent State scholarship with the hope of continuing his football career.
“I said I’ll take a chance for myself and I’ll play football, and that Monday I got offered by Mississippi State and so it worked out for the best for me. Went to Ohio State and I’m here,” he said.
After everything that’s transpired, he’s grateful for a new beginning.
“It’s put behind me and it’s a fresh start, I’m here in Cleveland,” he said. “It don’t get better than that.”