The Steelers made no secret a year ago about how much character mattered in the selection of Kenny Pickett on the first round of the NFL Draft.
This year’s No. 1, Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones, is, likewise, a character guy.
Jones’ first in-person session in front of the microphones and minicams on Friday on the South Side revealed, among other things, self-awareness, appreciation and perspective not often found in a player who won’t turn 22 until May 16.
So he’s got that going for him, in addition to a playing tape that impresses and an upside that intrigues.
Among the highlights from Jones’ responses to rapid-fire questions fielded less than 24 hours after he’d been drafted were:
Why he stuck it out at Georgia rather than transfer despite not playing right away and not starting until his third, and as it turned out, final college season:
“That wasn’t the reason I went to Georgia. I knew it was going to be tough going in as a freshman. I just wanted to be able to be a part of something bigger than me.”
How far he came in three seasons at UGA:
“The one thing I remember, as a freshman, went I first went in, there’s this thing you call a “Dawg Drill,” it’s like basically 1-on-1s. I had to go against six people that all went first round (eventually) as a freshman coming in and lost every single rep. It humbled me but I just continued to work, continued to better myself. You have no choice but to get better going against that many first-rounders. I’m still feeling that to this day.”
What he’s most proud of from his days at Georgia:
“Probably the way I play. Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t play like I play now with the physicality, with the toughness. That’s probably my biggest accomplishment, just being able to play with that edge, that physicality, that dominance.”
What made him tough:
“The University of Georgia, the way we practice, the way we get after it every day. You have no choice but to practice like that because if not, you’re going to be on the sidelines somewhere watching practice and not in practice. I’d rather tough it out, the little bumps and bruises, and continue to fight through and push through because that’s the only way the team’s gonna get better. That’s the only way I’m going to get better.”
Why Georgia wins so consistently beyond having an array of great players and producing a succession of first-round draft picks:
“Just playing with an edge, really. Nobody plays as physical as us. Nobody was running the ball like us. Nobody was taking shots down the field like us. You just gotta be able to play dominant. You gotta play physical. You gotta play tough. You gotta thug it out. At the end of the day that’s the only way you’re going to win.”
Why he loves football:
“The bonds that I was able to build, the brotherhoods I was able to be a part of, it was something different. Just being able to have those people around you who can help better you on and off the field, like Nolan Smith (a first-round pick of Philadelphia). Nolan’s the type of
person I want to have in my wedding as the best man, he’s that type of person. So just building those bonds and those relationships, really.”
Jones also has a special reason for switching to No. 77 from his college number, No. 59 (not available in Pittsburgh because that’s the number Jack Ham wore with the Steelers).
“My roommate from the University of Georgia, he wore No. 77, Devin Willock, the one that passed away in the car accident (involving Georgia teammate Jalen Carter). They told me the number was available. I just wanted to show my respects by taking that number and letting him live through me.”
Steelers president Art Rooney II is already a big Jones fan, as you might suspect.
Rooney, among other things, likes the way the kid thinks.
“When he first came here to visit us (prior to the draft), when he was in my office he told me I didn’t have a big enough television,” Rooney reported. “When we were meeting (on Friday), he reminded me again, I need to get a bigger television.
“He’s a bigger guy who thinks big and that’s the way we like it.”