Rick Houchens didn’t need to see film or practice for him to realize the type of player he potentially had at his disposal in Cory Jones. The Carroll football coach knew it from the simplest of gestures.
“What’s always stuck in my mind is when he first shook my hand,” Houchens said. “I remember how big his hands were as just a freshman. I could tell just from that that he fit the prototype of someone who could be a big-time defensive end and tight end.”
Three years passed before Houchens could actually see if Jones was more than just a firm handshake. After putting all of his attention into basketball, Jones came out for the football team in search of a college scholarship. While the Lions got a speedy defensive end who racked up 26 sacks and helped lead them to the first annual DCSAA Class A football title, Jones earned offers from Virginia, Illinois, Old Dominion, Toledo and Wake Forest.
“It’s been an exciting year and it’s given me a chance to really hone my skills,” Jones said. “Once I had [four] sacks in my first game and that got my first offer from ODU, it just motivated me to keep working harder.”
As a freshman, Jones didn’t see himself as cut out for work on the gridiron. After Houchens persuaded him to come out for summer workouts, Jones quit after just a few days.
As he endured three losing seasons with the Carroll basketball team, Jones said he at times considered taking up Houchens’ offers to rejoin the football team. Once Reggie Williams abruptly resigned as Carroll’s basketball coach near the end of last season and with Jones still in search of interest from college athletic programs, he decided to give football another shot.
“I wanted a scholarship, and when I went back out for football the second time, I loved it,” Jones said. “Everybody welcomed me, and the coaches really worked to help me develop.”
With his speed and power off the line, Jones used his evolving technique to record 12 sacks in his first three games. With Houchens seeing strong similarities between Jones and Derrick Harvey, who starred under Houchens at Eleanor Roosevelt before becoming a standout defensive end at Florida, the Carroll coach immediately sent out film to college coaches.
Soon, recruiters from Wake Forest, Virginia and other Football Bowl Subdivision programs were flocking to Carroll’s practices to see the one-year wonder.
“He’s got such a quick first step for a big guy and he’s a high-intelligent guy that’s like a sponge when you tell him something,” Houchens said. “The icing on the cake is he’s doing this as on-the-job training in his first year. Derrick Harvey didn’t start playing until his junior year and we know how he turned out. Cory has done all of this in one year, so you know once he gets in a college program, he’s only going to get better.”
Jones plans to take his first official visit to Toledo on the weekend of December 6. He will then decide on his other four visits with an aim at making his decision on National Signing Day on February 5.
In the meantime, Jones is still basking in the glory earned by the Lions following Saturday’s 52-13 win over Sidwell Friends in the Class A city title game. In that contest, Jones caught two passes for 32 yards at the tight end position from game MVP Scottie Law (89 total yards, two touchdowns).
Following an 85-yard touchdown return by James Madlock on the opening kickoff, the Lions got two more scores from Christian Melgar (211 rushing yards), two touchdowns from Elijah Bilal, a 48-yard punt return score by Delonte Barnes and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Kyle Minor.
“It was overwhelming to know we actually did it,” Jones said. “To win the city title and see Coach Rick smile and all of our guys so happy and emotional after going through a tough season in the WCAC was very exciting.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 22
Turf fields that could be installed at Prince George’s County public schools should a bill mandating this action be passed by the Maryland State Assembly in January. For many coaches and players, the news is a long time coming.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
Watch the top plays from the week that was in local playoff football action.
-Check out this week’s Post Top 20 football rankings following another wild round of playoff action.
-See how the area’s football teams stacked up in the latest coaches’ poll.
-With the championship round just weeks away, here are the updated playoff brackets.
-Chris Larco and the rest of the Briar Woods linebacker corps proved up to the test Friday in shutting down Mountain View’s explosive read-option offense during Friday’s Virginia 5A North region playoff win.
-Backup Dejhaun Wilhoit stepped in to rush for 106 yards and a score in Forest Park’s upset of top-seeded Varina in Friday’s Virginia 6A South region quarterfinals.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
A good way to pass your spare time before Thanksgiving Thursday and the weekend’s playoff games is reading Rick Maese’s incredible long-form feature on former D.C. United player Shawn Kuykendall’s spirited battle with cancer.