LARAMIE, Wyo. — DeAndre Jones isn’t a running back anymore, but he still carries a heavy weight on his shoulders every time he suits up for the Wyoming Cowboys (3-2, 1-0 Mountain West).
After establishing himself as a star at Harker Heights, a disciplinary issue led Baylor and Colorado to lose interest in his recruitment.
But he’s spent the last three seasons saddling up for one of the only teams that stuck by him and looks to help Wyoming continue its good start in the Mountain West Conference.
“I always feel that burden on my back, the pressure on my back to perform my best and show them that they didn’t waste a scholarship on me,” said the junior defensive back.
Jones’ flashes of brilliance shone for Heights even in a shortened senior season. During his final season as a Knight, Jones rushed for 389 yards and seven touchdowns on 95 carries while returning 10 kickoffs for 310 yards and a score in 2010.
The final days of the recruiting period in January and February 2011 proved to be stressful for Jones, but that all changed when he took a trip to the Wyoming campus and signed his letter of intent during national signing day.
For Jones, it was a relief to know he had a home stadium, school and team to represent on the NCAA Division I level. Even if it meant playing cornerback, a position he hadn’t lined up in since his sophomore year at Heights.
“Wyoming was one of the only teams that stuck around,” Jones said. “I jumped on board when they gave me the opportunity to play football and get an education.”
Although transitioning to a new city and speed of the collegiate game wasn’t easy, Jones paid his dues and climbed up the ranks from a special teams player as a freshman to one of the top players in the Cowboy secondary as a junior.
As a sophomore in 2012, he had one of six interceptions for the Cowboys and had 21 total tackles. Injuries have limited him this season, but he’s recorded six tackles in five games.
Jones said he doesn’t see himself as an athlete playing cornerback, instead he sees himself as just a cornerback.
The change in mentality made the transformation complete.
“I’m a cornerback now and I can play the position,” Jones said. “I’m just as good as any cornerback at any conference in Division I.”
Wyoming cornerbacks coach Renaldo Hill has been coaching Jones for the last two seasons and said that 6-foot, 186-pound defensive back not only has the natural attributes to play at this level, but he also possesses the ‘wow’ factor.
Hill said that as an upperclassman Jones may not say much, but his actions have provided the defensive back unit with a great deal of leadership.
“Just going out there and handling your business, that’s somebody that you would want to have those younger guys look at,” Hill said.
Jones is pursuing his degree in communications and plans on joining the Army after graduating from Wyoming.
Until then he’ll spend the remaining season and a half of his eligibility competing against the best teams from the Mountain West along with BCS schools like Nebraska and Texas, whom Wyoming has played the last two seasons.
“It’s fun, it’s definitely a new experience,” Jones said about playing for Wyoming. “I’m going to places I’ve really never been, I’ve experienced things and it’s a sweet feeling that I can’t explain.”