Electrifying Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones did many special things for the Eagles on the football field.
After they won the FCS championship game with a thrilling come-from-behind 20-19 win over Delaware in Frisco, Texas, last week, they did something for him.
They made it easy for him to leave school with a year of eligibility remaining and declare for the National Football League draft.
“Once I got to talk to my teammates and my coaches, they were just so supportive of whatever I would do, I knew they were OK with my leaving,” Jones said Saturday morning from California, where he will train until the draft. “That was my final decision.”
Jones was with his new agent, Cameron Foster, who has represented EWU players in the past, including current Tennessee Titans left tackle Michael Roos.
Jones and Foster said the NFL Advisory Committee projected Jones as a second- or third-round draft pick. With that possibility, Foster was hopeful Jones would get an invitation to the NFL combine.
Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout said early projections are a fifth- or sixth-round pick, although Jones could move up if he recovers quickly enough from an injury suffered in the playoffs to work out for teams.
Jones is the 13th-ranked running back and 125th player overall in Rang’s ratings.
Jones missed the final two games of the historic playoff run because of a broken bone in his left foot that took him out of the quarterfinal final game.
“It’s a lot better,” Jones said. “I should be off my boot in the next three or four weeks.”
The NFL Combine is in late February. The Pro Day at EWU, when teams can come in and test potential draftees, is in March.
Even with the blessing of his teammates, Jones was torn because he wanted to play in a championship game.
“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “I wanted to play in that game and I was looking forward to next year and maybe doing it again with me playing.”
Saturday was the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft. The deadline to submit papers to the NFL to get an evaluation was Dec. 15. The draft is at the end of April.
Jones said he would attend the EWU national championship celebration to be held on campus Friday.