SPORTS

Offensive lineman Brett Jones one of CFL's best men in the middle again

11/14/2014 06:15 EST | Updated 01/14/2015 05:59 EST
CALGARY - A New York Times article once described the centre on a football team as the "choreographer" or "air traffic controller" of the offensive line.

There is certainly more to it than snapping the ball to the quarterback and blocking an opposing defensive lineman.

The centre calls out blocking assignments and communicates pre-snap adjustments amid the chatter and movement along the line of scrimmage, as well as any additional noise coming from the stands.

Calgary Stampeder Brett Jones is a finalist for his second major Canadian Football League award in as many years because he has the skill and temperament to handle the demands of the job.

The 23-year-old from Weyburn, Sask., was the first offensive lineman in CFL history to win the league's rookie award in 2013.

Jones is the West Division's finalist for this year's offensive lineman award. Montreal Alouettes tackle Jeff Perrett is the East Division nominee.

If Jones claims the CFL's offensive lineman award, he would be the second consecutive player out of the Weyburn Comprehensive School Eagles high school program to do so after Saskatchewan's Brendon Labatte last year. The CFL awards will be announced Nov. 27 in Vancouver.

Durable, unflappable, physical and cerebral, Jones led an offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in the CFL (26) for a second straight year. Calgary also led the league in average rushing yards per game (143.9).

"He's got a great motor, he plays with a great attitude, he's everything you want in the middle of your group," Stampeder offensive line coach Pat DelMonaco said of Jones.

"The big thing is he has to be calm under pressure. He's the quarterback of our group. Things are going to change last minute. He's quick in being able to re-direct us in those last moments and that's key."

Jones once entertained both dentistry and medical school, but now wants to finish his engineering degree.

He took five third-year classes last winter at the University of Regina. He's registered for three more and hopes to get into a fourth when the 2014 season ends.

Combing all the variables at centre into a successful outcome appeals to his student's mind.

"Definitely it's kind of like a puzzle and you've got to try and figure it out," Jones said. "You've got to know what you're doing and you've got to be able to do it with the proper technique and be doing it together with the guy beside you.

"There's a lot more things going on than just hitting some guy."

Jones has played all 36 regular-season games and started in all but one since his arrival in the CFL. Jon Gott served as a mentor for Jones in his rookie year and occasionally rotated in at centre as Jones learned the position.

Gott was dealt to the expansion Ottawa Redblacks in the off-season, so Jones shouldered more responsibility in his sophomore year.

"He was on a steep learning curve both years," DelMonaco said. "He lost his crutch. Last year, Jon Gott was able to be a relaxing voice for him. (Jones) didn't have that. It's been a learning curve in that he had to take full responsibility on all of it this year.

"He was going to play centre regardless of who they lined up across from him and that's what we did with him. He embraced that. It built his confidence and he plays that way. He gained a lot of confidence between last year and this year."

Once he's analyzed the opposing defence's scheme, Jones' mobility and strength on a six-foot-two, 318-pound frame take over.

"If you watch him play, you're going to notice that he's going forward and the person he's going against the majority of the time is going backwards," DelMonaco said.

"He has to be a physical presence in there because the quarterback stands behind him the majority of the time. If he's getting mashed into the quarterback, the quarterback doesn't have anywhere to run or doesn't have anywhere to move."

If Jones makes a mistake, it can put his quarterback on the ground. DelMonaco says Jones has the requisite thick skin for the position. Jones can't really see himself playing any other position on the offensive line.

"That's probably the best-suited position for me just with my size and stuff," Jones said. "I like having the control of being able to tell the other guys what to do. I like that because it really helps me make sure I know what I'm doing and I can help the other guys."

So does Jones see his job as a choreographer, or an air traffic controller?

"Maybe in the sense we're as big as planes, maybe," Jones mused.

"I try and get the guys going in the right direction, but we all know what we're doing out there. I'm just kind of reminding them."

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