Jones is one of eight Big Ten players being promoted on the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, joining Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, Iowa safety Tyler Sash and Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt.
As a junior in 2009, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound Jones led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 154 tackles, the seventh-best single-season total in MSU history. The 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year earned First-Team All-America honors from The Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), CollegeFootballNews.com, Rivals.com, CBSSports.com and Phil Steele. In addition, Jones was named recipient of the 2009 Linebacker Trophy (National Linebacker of the Year) by the College Football Performance Awards. He also was recognized as the nation’s No. 1 linebacker by CollegeFootballNews.com.
Jones ranked third in the NCAA FBS in tackles per game (11.8), tied for 30th in sacks (0.69 per game) and tied for 51st in tackles for loss (1.08 per game). He also finished among the Big Ten leaders in sacks (fifth) and tackles for loss (10th). Jones led the team in tackles (154 total), tackles for loss (14.0 for 69 yards), sacks (9.0 for 53 yards) and production points (282). He became the first Spartan to record back-to-back 100-tackle seasons since 2003-04 when both linebacker Ronald Stanley and free safety Jason Harmon reached the milestone.
“It’s an honor to be on the same list with these other Big Ten players,” Jones said. “I have a lot of respect for these guys and I’ve seen them compete at a high level. To be named among them is great, I’m very happy about that, but my focus is still to win games and a Big Ten championship. The more we win, the awards will come for everybody, and that’s all I want. The main goal is to win – if that happens, everything will come together.”
“Greg Jones is not only an outstanding leader, but he’s the catalyst for our entire defense,” Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio said. “A consensus All-American and the unquestioned MVP of our defense, Greg is the perfect guy to build this 2010 team around because he does things the right way. He never has been motivated by individual honors or individual stats. Greg is driven to strive for team goals, and his No. 1 priority is to help this team compete for a Big Ten title.
“With his consistent productivity, he has a tremendous impact in every game. Greg has dedicated himself to becoming a complete football player and that includes his willingness to spend additional time studying film. He simply possesses all of the tools, the tangibles and intangibles, which make him a special player. Greg is an extremely tenacious and instinctive player, who brings great energy and effort every time he steps on to field. In addition, he is quick, strong and plays with tremendous toughness.”
“There are some great defensive players in the country, so for Greg Jones to be named among them is an honor, but it’s a deserving honor,” linebackers coach Mike Tressel said. “He’s certainly proved on the field that he belongs in that elite company.
“I think Greg is doing a great job of keeping things in perspective. He had the junior year that reached his expectations, but he knows this upcoming year is even more important and he’s extremely focused on those 12 games.
“Going into this year, it’s just a matter of talking about his personal goals that he needs to work on, because every player has things they need to do to improve. We need to focus on how to get better as opposed to looking around and feeling good about ourselves. And that’s the thing – Greg is humble enough to accept these honors while at the same time staying hungry.”
The Cincinnati, Ohio, native reached double-figure tackles for the ninth time in MSU’s 41-31 loss to Texas Tech in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl. His 13 tackles against the Red Raiders fell just one stop shy of the Alamo Bowl record.
He also posted double-digit tackles against Montana State (14), Central Michigan (career-high 15), Wisconsin (14), Illinois (11), Northwestern (14), Iowa (12), Minnesota (12) and Penn State (career-high 15). Jones produced a career-best two sacks (9 yards) in MSU’s 24-14 Homecoming victory over Northwestern.
Jones has posted double-digit tackles in 16 of his last 20 games overall, averaging 12.0 stops (240 total) during that stretch. A model of consistency, he has led the team in tackles in 23 of the last 26 games.
Jones has started 33 of 39 career games, including 27 consecutive starting assignments. He has 359 career tackles, including 36.5 for losses (140 yards) and 15.5 sacks (87 yards). Jones ranks second among NCAA FBS active leaders in both total tackles (359) and tackles per game (9.2). He already ranks among MSU’s all-time leaders in tackles for loss (fifth) and total tackles (eighth). Jones has produced double-figure tackles 18 times in his career.
Five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy will be announced on Nov. 18, with the formal presentation of the award scheduled for Dec. 6 at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C.
The award is named in honor of Bronko Nagurski, a three-year letterman at Minnesota who helped the Golden Gophers to a combined record of 18-4-2 from 1927-29. In 1929, he became the only college player ever to be selected All-American at two positions, tackle and fullback. Nagurski played as many as five different positions during his collegiate career, including tackle, end, guard, fullback and halfback. Legendary Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne said, “He was the only player I ever saw who could have played every position.” The 6-2, 235-pound Nagurski played nine seasons as a fullback and linebacker for the Chicago Bears (1930-37 and 1943) and earned All-NFL honors five times. He was a charter member of both the College (1951) and Pro Football Halls of Fame (1963).
Michigan State’s 2010 season and home opener is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 4 against Western Michigan.