Inside Mac Jones’ audition for the Patriots and the NFL stage: ‘The kid knows how to prepare’

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By Jeff Howe, The Athletic

Mac Jones’ second pro day concluded with some flair, the result of a mere two minutes of planning and execution that drew a smile from Bill Belichick and everyone else in attendance.

Of course, Belichick and the New England Patriots didn’t draft the Alabama quarterback with the No. 15 pick in the NFL Draft last week because of a triple-option touchdown reception. Rather, it was the rest of Jones’ pro day that yielded a snapshot of his true character, competitiveness and passion for the game.

That pro day was a small part of the Jones evaluation and a glimpse into his much larger body of work. He took ownership of his 65-throw script, meticulously combing through every detail in the days leading up to his March 30 audition at Alabama’s Hank Crisp Indoor Facility.

“Mac is a control freak. He likes having the keys and being in the driver’s seat,” said David Morris, one of Jones’ throwing coaches. “I like that. Any of the good ones I’ve been around, they want to be the guy all the time.”

Jones didn’t love his March 23 pro day, so he rewrote the script for the second session. He collaborated with Morris and Joe Dickinson, another throwing coach, who has worked with Jones for about 12 years.

Jones also sought input from Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and running back Najee Harris to ensure they were happy with the plan. But because Smith (dislocated finger) and Waddle (broken ankle) were recovering from injuries and weren’t sure if they’d participate in the pro day, Jones added two backup scripts to the workload.

Jones wanted to accomplish three particular goals that day: show off his arm strength that had been heavily questioned during the pre-draft process, spotlight his mobility in the pocket and fulfill requests from teams that hoped to see certain throws.

“Pro day, we always have a blank canvas,” Morris said. “We create it and collaborate what we want to do. We have a plan, show what we need to show. I’ve never quite had a guy completely take over and kind of even destroy the canvas and say, ‘Let’s rethink it a little bit more.’ I like that because he knows what he wants. He likes things a certain way. He’s very intelligent. When he’s thinking about an operation, he’s not only thinking about himself. He’s thinking about everyone else around him. So he wanted to simplify some things but also really dive deep in a way to show what we wanted to show. It was fascinating to me because it was unique.”

Morris, the founder of QB Country in Mobile, Ala., was Eli Manning’s backup at Ole Miss and trained him during the latter half of his NFL career. Morris has prepared Daniel Jones, Gardner Minshew, Jake Fromm, Paxton Lynch, Nick Mullens, A.J. McCarron and Matt Barkley for previous drafts.

He began working with Mac Jones in January after the Crimson Tide’s national championship run and was instantly impressed with his preparation. One example: Jones has a pen with six colors that he uses to take notes from each of his games and opponents — red ink for the red zone, green ink for the green area, another color for third downs and so on.

The Senior Bowl was another eye-opener for Morris, who attended Jones’ practices and texted him observations after each workout. But after a full day of meetings, Jones retreated to the quarterbacks room in the convention center to study that day’s tape — until Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy’s staff had to ask Jones to leave at midnight in order to lock up the building — then combed through his notes in his hotel room until 2:30 a.m., when he finally returned Morris’ texts.

This happened on back-to-back nights. The players had to wake up by 6:30 each morning.

“You’ve got a guy who understands the opportunity,” Morris said. “His worst nightmare is to just miss something and not be prepared. Whatever it takes to know everything forwards and backwards, that’s going to be what he does. It’s over the top from a preparation standpoint, but there’s a reason he had the best year in NCAA history this year. The kid knows how to prepare.”

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