A first kiss, a first love, a first candy bar and the first day of school. People never forget moments like these, and for football players, the first taste of game action is a relished one.
Alabama’s senior cornerback Cyrus Jones is a native of Baltimore, Md., but the moment that groomed him into the team’s most seasoned defensive back came two years ago at College Station, Texas. Jones enrolled at Alabama in 2012 as a receiver, prior to the encounter.
He was productive at wide receiver and return specialist as a freshman, yet the Crimson Tide lacked depth at corner. The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Jones was moved to defense in the summer of 2013. His first start came against Tennessee; however, the test came against Texas A&M.
Ex-Aggie wide out Michael “Mike” Evans burned Alabama’s John Fulton multiple times in 2012. The Crimson Tide placed cornerback Deion Belue on Evans the following year.
An injured Belue in the first half forced Jones to be first off the bench.
He had all of the 6-foot-5, 228-pound Evans to himself. Jones, then a sophomore, was burned a couple of times, but possessed a veterans confidence. He made one of the biggest plays of the game, an interception off Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the end zone.
It was the first takeaway of his career and second for Alabama against the Aggies.
Jones would record four total tackles and assist on another to go with his interception. The Crimson Tide emerged victorious in a 49-42 shootout. Jones would end the season with 25 total tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions as a first-year defensive back.
When asked about the game, Jones told the media “I grew up a lot that day, let’s just put it that way.” Now a senior, he anchors a much improved secondary. This year’s group has forced eight interceptions, including one by Jones. He could be lined up on Ricky Seals-Jones or Christian Kirk, but Jones anticipates a return to College Station regardless of game plan.
Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.