Name: Aki Jones
Position: Defensive Tackle
Experience: Been playing football way too long
Previous non-U.S. teams: The Crew Wroclaw (Poland)
I think that most of the swedish football fans know that you played in the NFL with The skins, but I don’t think that they know alot more than that. How would you summarize your NFL adventure?
– I think people would love to hear tales of the wild parties, expensive cars and groupies. But honestly its a job that 99.9% of people don’t know. We would arrive at the facilities at 7 am. Go to the training room and take care of all pains. By week 3 everything hurts lol. Meetings start at 8 and go until 2. You have practice and then one last meeting after practice. Depending on what day it was you would have a mandatory lifting session after meetings. So you are done around 6 p.m but most guys would stay until maybe 8 watching game film of the team we would be playing that week. So I would get home around 8 everyday. We also were responsible for watching the scouting reports they gave us everyday. Our lockers would be filled with 2 DVD’s everyday. Seriously it was a break down of 1st down plays, 2nd and short, 2nd and long, 3rd and short, 3rd and long etc. Every down and distance we had a video for the plays they ran.
Don’t get me wrong I had a blast being a professional athlete in one of the more lively cities in the states but it wasn’t a huge party like you see in some rap videos. Well when Clinton Portis would throw a party it would be like that. It helped me understand that to prepare to play this game and be good at it you have to go beyond being a good athlete. Its the NFL everyone there is the best athlete. But becoming a student of the game is what set guys apart from each other. I bring that mentality with me wherever I play now.
You spent three years in Poland playing for The Crew, is that the only european team you have played for?
– The reason I stayed so long because I was and still am focused on the off the field opportunities where I choose to play. Poland allowed me to work with the former VP of Time Warner. I felt career wise that would be a person that I could learn a lot from. Within those 3 seasons I was able to do a lot for marketing and developing the league in Poland. I was able to do reality shows, music videos, create my own youth football league Super Flag Bol, featured in fitness magazines, had a role in the biggest Polish film of 2011. All this made more people around the country of what American Football was and built a larger following.
Where would you rank the swedish “Superserien” compared to the other european leagues you have seen or played in?
– #1 I believe. Being that I’ve only played in 2 leagues. So Sweden is #1 and Poland is #2. From a players stand point the players have a lot more knowledge of the game and understand aspects of the game well. I think the O Line play is good based on the fact they understand pulling, reach blocking, and executing double teams then getting to the next level (blocking to the line backer for those who are not familiar with football terms). Stockholm and Tyresö did a good job with it. But in all leagues I do see the same thing. The O Line and DB’s are the most under coached position in all of Europe. Those are two positions that require you to be fundamentally sound at all times. All teams every where be it NFL, NCAA, Africa, China, Indonesia wherever there is a football you must build your team around your O Line. If you want to win you have to have a solid O Line. If Sweden is looking to really emerge as one of the top tier leagues focusing on the O Line is going to be the key.
Are you here in sweden just to participate as a player or what is your role in Arlanda 2012?
– I have a lot of responsibility outside of playing. I will be working with BD’s school program visiting schools and doing football presentations, helping with the other Junior teams we have in the Jets program. I am also looking to get more involved with the organizational side as well. Outside of me being an athlete I have a degree from Fordham in Marketing and Advertising that is as impressive as me playing in the NFL. I want to make sure I’m using that as well while I’m out here. Actually I’ll be doing a whole hell of a lot out here. I need to ask for more money lol? All joking aside I probable should shouldn’t I?
You where here in Sweden last year and played the last games of the season with the Jets. What made you come back for the 2012 season?
– I liked the organization as whole. I saw the youth teams and I wanted to be more involved with the their program. Working with someone like BD isn’t available in most teams. Playing is the last on my list of priorities when picking a team. There are a lot of young guys in the junior program that can be great senior players. There are many guys that from the Senior team that are very good players that didn’t play last year who definitely can make this team better. What was lost in me playing this year was the return of a few important Offensive players. When they came back they had as much of an impact as I did. The Jets have everything that most teams don’t have. The Jets have every reason to be successful this year. For me it was more rewarding to help win those last 3 games than it was winning a championship last season in Poland. It easy to pay for a team when you beat everyone by 40 points. But it was more fun having to compete each series of the game.
What is, in your opinion, your greatest strength as a player and/or leader?
– I’m surprisingly a lot faster than anyone expected. Most people see my size and think I’m going to bull rush all day. One thing I’ve learned professionally was that you have to minimize the amount of hits your body takes. It is physically impossible to run into a person so many times and not have your body break down. The art of defensive line play is using the O Lineman’s mistakes more than just running into him. The Redskins brought in Martial arts experts to teach us how to use our hands and footwork to get around guys. More importantly I have really good football intelligence and awareness. I ACTUALLY WATCH FILM. Most of my success comes from looking at the O Lines alignment, stance, splits between each other and from there I can determine if its run, pass or if the guy is pulling. If a guard is pulling that means the center is most likely going to down block. So I can do two things attack the center and collapse the A gap which gives the running back no lane to run or try and use my speed to follow the pulling guard which will take me to the RB because the RB will be using him as his lead blocker. Contrary to popular belief you need to be somewhat intelligent to play this game.
As a leader I will say I’m not the most vocal person or most positive guy lol. If I do speak I go on some psychotic rant in the middle of a game. But the one thing is I don’t get nervous. Our red zone defense was amazing. I don’t think any moment in a game overwhelms me. I don’t know if others feed off of that. They probably don’t care either lol. But I think as an import I’m expected to get them out of tough situations. Hell thats what I am getting paid to do. If I’m turning around screaming everyone gets tense and thats when mental errors happen.
What is your personal goals for 2012?
– I had a goal of 20 sacks last year. Now I want to see if I can get 25-30. If I get that many I need to also get 10-15 forced fumbles. Has a defensive player ever won import of the year? Probably not they always give it to the QB’s. I swear QB’s get all the glory lol. I know I won’t throw for 2,000+ yards but getting double teamed and cut blocked for 4 quarters and still making plays should count for something right?
But I have to improve on last year. Coaches last season were tweeting from sidelines of games, yeah literally tweeting while they should be coaching, that I wasn’t in shape and I looked slow. So now I lost about 30 pounds. In your system of calculating size and wegight 13 or 14 kilo. So I think I’m in better shape to make more of an impact. I want more teams around Europe to respect the Defensive line position. Everyone believes that we don’t make enough plays to affect a game. Well if you bring in an import QB how can he be effective if he’s getting sacked and hit the whole game. Giants beat New England in the Super Bowl because of the pass rush, Green Bay lost to Kansas City because Tamba Hali sacked Aaron Rodgers 3 times by himself. Any Defensive Coordinator will tell you the most important part of your defense is the pressure you can put up front. You have a dominant D Line you don’t need to blitz and you can play more physical with your corners. My mission in Europe is to try and be so dominant that the D Line position becomes a priority for teams.
I also will do a much better job of running my website EuroJones.com much better. Last season I got so lazy and I lost my camera so I couldn’t make any new videos. So I will make sure I will make it more entertaining (which will be pretty hard to do) than the first year I started it.