CEDAR CITY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – In the 58-year history of Southern Utah University football, the Thunderbirds have had just three NFL Draft picks.
There was quarterback Brad Sorensen in 2013 (7th round), cornerback Le’Shaun Sims (5th) and safety Miles Killebrew (4th) in 2016, and that’s it.
Braxton Jones will most likely be the fourth, and he could end up being be the highest drafted SUU player ever.
“My goal is the third round for sure,” said Jones, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive tackle. “Obviously if I went in the fourth or fifth, I would be just as stoked to be drafted. But my goal is definitely the third and to be the highest drafted player from Southern Utah.”
Coming out of Murray High School, Jones did not have a lot of Division-1 offers. After shining at SUU, where he was a two-time all-Big Sky Conference selection, he had opportunities to transfer. But Jones stayed loyal to the T-birds, proving you don’t have to go to a big name school to make it to the NFL.
“It’s a big time thing coming from a small school,” Jones said. “Obviously a lot of people were like, you can transfer and go to a big school, right? I was like, yeah, but I have loyalty within Southern Utah, and to finish out there was just amazing. It also gives my teammates a little boost and confidence as well, to be like, yeah, I can do this.”
Playing against Big Sky Conference competition is one thing. But to excel at the Senior Bowl against the top players in the country, like he did last month, gave Jones a ton of confidence.
“It was a big eye-opening thing,” he said. “All these athletes, they’re really good. But being able to look myself in the mirror and be like, Braxton you’re just as good.”
At the NFL Combine earlier this month, Jones ran a sub-5 second 40-yard dash, a rarity for 300-pound offensive linemen.
“I ran as fast as I could,” he said. “It came back with the official time of 4.97, and I was pumped. It was a great feeling. What I tell scouts and NFL coaches is that’s what’s different for me, is I can move in space, and when I get going, not a lot of people can slow me down.”
Praised for his long arms, Jones hopes to use his size and athleticism to his advantage as he transitions to the next level.
“Being an athletic tackle in the league is becoming a thing,” Jones said. “Not just being big, but being very athletic and big. I would say that’s what is big about my 40.”
Jones doesn’t have big plans for the NFL Draft, but is really looking forward to hearing his name called.
“I’ll probably be with the family and with some close friends,” he said. “Not too crazy because we’ve got to get into it the next week after that. So, it will be just a little celebration with my close family and friends.”