College Athlete of the Year: DaQuan Jones

By Travis Eldridge

December 24, 2013 Updated Dec 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's a transformation more than four years in the making. The road from Johnson City kid to future NFL defensive lineman has been a long one to and through State College, PA for DaQuan Jones.

"To be honest with you," Jones said. "I didn't start believing in it that I could play in the NFL, actually play, until probably mid-season this year."

A big leg of that journey came this past season as a senior defensive tackle at Penn State.

"Coming into this year, it was my time to shine," he said. "It was senior year and I wanted to get to the league and help support my family so coming in there to Syracuse, I just wanted to dominate and that's what I did."

All of his junior year, Jones had 22 tackles. In just his first game this year against Syracuse, he had nearly half of that, with nine.

In all he finished with 56 tackles and three sacks this season, proof that not only did he belong on the field, but he belonged on a list of some of the best in the nation.

"That dream is so... everyone wants it," Jones remarked. "You got to be realistic, and think about all the college football players out there and how the media likes certain guys and stuff like that. It was a long shot for me, but then I started to go out there and believe in myself and my ability to play football and it started clicking in my head that I can really do this."

Plenty of people took notice of this transformation. He was an first team All-Big Ten selection this season, who is heading to the Senior Bowl.

However, it was an award closer to home that meant the most, being named Penn State team MVP.

"It's my coaches and my peers. You know they saw something in me and they believed in me and they looked at me for leadership," said Jones. "That's something I'm going to value for the rest of my life."

But like he's had to do since the beginning of his career, he's still proving people wrong.

He said people still doubt he can pass rush from his defensive tackle position, to which he said "is unbelievable," while shaking his head.

Jones also still expects better from himself.

"I don't think I played as good as I could have," when asked about his past season. "But there's always room to improve."

Jones says it's crazy to think the road to the NFL is now so short. Who knew the separation between crazy thought and dream-come-true was just a few months and a bunch of draft picks away.

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