Baltimore Ravens wide receiver/return specialist Jacoby Jones said he always knew he’d play in the Super Bowl.
Doing so in his hometown is lagniappe.
“When I was born, I told everybody I was going to the league,” Jones said during Media Day on Tuesday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “I was going to be in the Super Bowl, and being in the Superdome is a blessing.”
Though Jones visualized at a very young age where he would end up this Sunday, playing against the San Francisco 49ers, he took a circuitous route to get here.
He grew up in the impoverished Ninth Ward and ran track for two years at St. Augustine High School, but he didn’t get the opportunity to play football there. He transferred to Abramson High School and played football there for two seasons.
Jones ran track for one year at Southeastern Louisiana before transferring to little-known Lane College, a Division II school in Jackson, Tenn.
He got noticed enough to be a third-round draft choice of the Houston Texans in 2007 after standing out in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game.
“At first, they didn’t know what Lane College was,” Jones said, “but they did after I ran past the first defender.”
Jones played five years with the Texans, averaging 36 catches per season, and was an effective punt and kickoff returner. But he muffed a punt that played a key role in Houston’s 20-13 loss to the Ravens in the divisional playoffs last season.
The Texans released Jones last May, and he signed a two-year contract with Baltimore.
“It was fine,” Jones said of his tenure in Houston. “They molded me. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to play in the NFL.”
Jones caught 30 passes for 406 yards and a touchdown and was a big-play returner. He returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns and led the league with a kickoff-return average of 30.7 yards this season.
His most memorable play, though, was a pass play in a divisional playoff game at Denver, when the Ravens’ season seemingly was about to end earlier this month. The Broncos had a 35-28 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter when Jones got behind Denver’s secondary to catch an improbable 70-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to tie the score with 31 seconds left. Baltimore won 38-35 in double overtime.
“It’s probably the biggest play in my career,” Jones said. “It happened at the right time. … I saw how shallow the safety was sitting. I just came off the ball hauling butt. I looked and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m behind him. This is over with.’ ”
The addition of Jones to a receiving corps that also includes Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith has made the Ravens a more dangerous passing team than they had been.
“He’s a big-play threat,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said of Jones. “You put he and Torrey on the field at the same time you’re going to have some issues, along with Anquan. But, he’s been able to make some big catches for us and some big plays.
“He’s done some things that you maybe might not be able to see, in terms of his blocking down the field. He’s a tough, competitive guy. He’s helped us stretch the field quite a bit and changed coverages that we see from week to week because everybody has to be concerned.”
Jones still lives in Houston but spends part of his offseason in New Orleans, staying at his mother’s house in New Orleans East, where she moved after the family’s Ninth Ward home was ruined by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“That’s my home,” Jones said.
Jones added that he has gotten far more requests for tickets to Sunday’s game than the nine he can accommodate, many from “cousins” he’s not sure he really has.
“I just tell them, ‘Hey cousin, how you doing? I don’t have any tickets,’ ” Jones said.