Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones has always been more than just a punter.
At Coosa High School near Rome, Ga., he played outside linebacker, strong safety and even some quarterback while becoming an all-area punter.
So the hit he leveled on Detroit Lions returner Andre Roberts during a Monday Night Football game three weeks ago didn’t necessarily shock his teammates.
“He’s a really athletic guy. I’ve seem him in the weight room. I see him run all the time,” Cowboys safety Jeff Heath said. “He’s made tackles before so it wasn’t too surprising. It was a good hit. I don’t know other punters, but he’s pretty athletic.”
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He’s a really athletic guy. I’ve seem him in the weight room. I see him run all the time.
Jeff Heath, Cowboys safety, about punter Chris Jones
That was apparent at an early age for Jones. His dad taught him the basics of punting, and by age 6, he was able to zing a perfect spiral 15-20 yards. Other kids were lucky to make contact with the ball at that age, much less have any accuracy. He didn’t punt in Pee Wee football because he was the only one who could handle long snapping. By middle school, however, he was punting.
“I thought it was the coolest thing,” said Jones, who never played soccer. “My older brother always played ball, my dad coached. I was always around football.”
Again, his athleticism was on display Oct. 30 when he ripped off a momentum-changing 30-yard run on a fake punt against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s a good athlete,” Heath said.
He’s also had another great year punting. Jones had a career-long 66-yarder against the Eagles, which was also the sixth-longest punt in club history, and finished the season with a career-best 45.9 gross punting average, the fifth-best, single-season average in franchise history.
Getting better at this position is consistency throughout.
Chris Jones, Cowboys punter
He’s also pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line on 25 of his 58 punts, tied for 10th best in the league.
Jones isn’t so sure that this is his best season, pointing out his average net punt was 2 1/2 yards longer a season ago. In 2013, he had five more punts inside the 20, but that came with 19 more punts.
“Getting better at this position is consistency throughout,” he said. “Kickers and punters always talk about having different clubs in your bag, so adding kicks, misdirection kicks, whatever stuff you can do to throw off a scheme that an opponent may have. A returner may have a bead on you thinking you go to this hash every time and you can confuse them that way.
“For me, it’s just about getting good at your craft.”