Undrafted free agents looking to make a roster have to do what JJ Jones did tonight.
The speedster out of West Georgia has gotten an extended look at kickoff and punt returner throughout training camp and the first two preseason games. That only makes sense considering he's been clocked at running a 4.2 40-yard dash.
Late in the first half, he showed exactly why the Bolts are taking a long look at the wide receiver on special teams with a 72-yard punt return to the house.
Fielding a 57-yard Jon Ryan punt at his own 28, Jones darted quickly to his right before cutting sharply upfield through a massive lane cleared out by his blockers. After 10 yards he angled toward the right sideline to blow past defensive end Jacob Martin, who had no chance at catching the returner. Aided by a strong block by Geremy Davis, Jones then sliced between the last two Seahawks in his way, leaving nothing but green grass for the last 35 yards to pay dirt.
"Just a great call by (Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator George Stewart)," he said after the game. "I just have to thank all my teammates, the other 10 guys that were out there with me, helping me sprint that 72-yard touchdown. Coach Stew called a great play, middle return, and it opened up like the Red Sea and I just hit it. Just made a play for the team."
Jones is well aware of his status on the team. If he has any chance to make the 53-man roster, it must come as a returner, which is why his touchdown return meant even more than the six points on the scoreboard.
"As a receiver, it's kind of hard (to make it)," he admitted. "You have Keenan Allen (and) Tyrell (Williams). Those are great players. They're here and they've been doing it. Special teams, we're returning kicks (and punts). With my speed, I ran a 4.2 on my pro day, and that can help me return a kick."
It also helps that special teams is a passion of his.
"Absolutely, because I have speed, athleticism, things a lot of people wish they had, and with special teams, I get to return kicks. That's what I love to do."
Still, returning is more than just speed and athleticism. As he explains, there's an art to it, as returning punts and kickoffs are two very different beasts.
"I love doing both," he said. "Kickoff returns, you have time to set up and block, but punt return, you have to find the ball in the air, while moving two or three yards right in front of me. It's a quicker transition trying to make guys miss doing punt returns."
Perhaps the main thing the two plays have in common is that they require proper blocking in order to be successful. For that very reason, Jones was quick to give the other 10 players blocking for him the lion's share of the credit over and over again in the locker room.
"That's the main key to me scoring a touchdown because without those 10 guys, I would be out there by myself," he said. "If those 10 guys don't get that block, then the big hole won't open up like that. Once again, I want to thank those guys for making those blocks and to Coach for giving me the opportunity back there on returning (punts)."
Coach Lynn was also proud of the entire unit as he said the Bolts went out of their way to challenge the unit leading up to the game.
"It wasn't just JJ; it was the whole punt return," he said. "We challenged them last week, and it was good to see them respond that way."
It's also good to have someone with blazing 4.2 speed back there to take it to the house when the blockers do their job.
Check out some of the best action shots as the Bolts take on the Seattle Seahawks in their second preseason game.