Like his fellow Day 2 draft classmate Tutu Atwell, inside linebacker Ernest Jones had a good feeling about his chances of being selected by the Rams based on how his pre-draft conversations went.
"All day today, I woke up with the Rams on my mind," Jones said during a video conference with reporters after being selected with the 103rd pick. "I'm just like, 'they gotta come get me. I just gotta come do my job there.' So the whole day today, I was just waiting on a call from a California number, waiting on the Rams. All day I've been waiting on this call."
That dream manifested into reality via the third round Friday night, bringing Jones to the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense to begin his professional career. Jones is ready to get to work and contribute in any way he can.
"I'm going to do whatever they come in here and ask me to do," Jones said. "I'm going to deliver. Whatever they tell me, the task they put in front of me, it's going to get handled on my end. I'm going to come in and work hard, learn what I need to learn so I can be productive for this team in any aspect."
Jones began his college career at South Carolina as an outside linebacker before transitioning inside and playing middle linebacker from his sophomore season on, where he developed into a "vocal leader," according to his school biography, and one of four permanent team captains as a junior in 2020. Those qualities showed up on the Rams' scouting report of him – general manager Les Snead said Friday night that Jones was the No. 1-ranked player on their "potential leader board."
His production also likely caught their attention, having amassed a team-leading 86 total tackles and recorded the sixth-highest tackles per game average (9.6) in the SEC.
"I've always just had a goal in mind that nobody can have more tackles than me at the end of the game," said Jones, who models his game after linebackers like the Colts' Darius Leonard and the Buccaneers' Lavonte David and Devin White. "That just doesn't look right for the MLB not to have the most tackles. Each game, I'm coming in there knowing I've got to beat everybody to the ball."
Those instincts are the product of a disciplined mental approach to preparing for each game that Jones takes pride in.
"Just overall, I feel like I have an edge (that) once I'm prepared, the physical aspect of the game will come easy," Jones said. "Just knowing that I'm prepared will do the job."
Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the first thing that came to mind when he got that anticipated phone call was the many years of preparation that led to this moment. He was in such disbelief, he let his phone ring for a few moments to soak in the moment before taking the call.
Knowing how much hard work it took to get to this point, Jones is taking the same humility that earned him a leadership role at South Carolina to the Rams.
"(I'm looking to learn from) each of those guys (on the Rams defense)," Jones said. "Each and every one of them will add something different, whether it's how you go about taking care of your body, how you go about staying in the league for the longest, and how you go about approaching each and every week with a different mindset. So I feel like I'll be able to learn something from each and every guy. Regardless of what it is, I'll learn something from them all."