Cyrus Jones has been in the shadows. When he arrived on Gilman School’s campus four years ago, he was recognized for being the son of former Dunbar High basketball star Diego Jones. On the football field the past couple of seasons, Jones played a complimentary role as the spotlight centered on Darius Jennings.
Now, heading into his senior campaign, Jones is primed to cast his own mark. He’s arguably the No. 1 football recruit in the Baltimore area.
“I’m anxious about the season,” said Jones after playing with the Greyhounds at the St. Paul’s School’s 7-on-7 Passing League last weekend. “They tell us as freshman four years go by fast, but you take it for granted. It went by like a flash.”
Which is a good way to describe him on the football field. Last fall, Jones netted more than 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns between rushing, receiving and returns for the Greyhounds (7-2 last season; No. 2 in final VSN’s Top 20).
As a cornerback, Jones nabbed a team-leading five interceptions. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete is ranked 37th nationally by ESPN, in addition to a Top 250 pick by recruiting websites Rivals.com and Scout.com.
“He’s certainly one of the best football players to play at Gilman which means he’s one of the best in the state, and means he’s one of the best in the country,” said Gilman coach Biff Poggi. “He’s got a chance to be the best we’ve ever had.
He’s a relentless competitor. He wants to play 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When he does not win or give his best, his answer is ‘I want to come back and compete again.’”
Jones’ competitive edge was nutured at young age by his father, who was a starter on the 1991-92 Dunbar Poet basketball squad that went 29-0 and claimed USA Today’s mythical national championship. The younger Jones said he’s never felt pressure to live up to his father’s accomplishments.
“I’ve been blessed to be his son,” said Cyrus. “He’s taught me a lot and has been a great example, and put me in the right position to do well.”
“He’s always been a kid who works hard in everything he does,” said his father, who’s coached his alma-mater to back-to-back Class 1A state basketball championships in four seasons at the helm. “He’s never satisfied, but he keeps a level head.”
Both have often been asked why Cyrus didn’t come to Dunbar. The elder Jones said his son wanted to “go somewhere where he can make his own name.” A highly-touted basketball guard entering Gilman, Cyrus slowly gravitated towards football.
“Basketball was my main sport when I was nine, 10, 11 years old. I grew as a player in both, but just develop a deep love for football,” said Cyrus, who’s started his first three seasons on the basketball court.
“I wanted to spark his interest [in basketball], but once he got older, it was on him,” said Jones, who played basketball collegiately at West Virginia University. “He fell in love with football and continued to pursue it.”
In addition to several pounds of muscle on his frame, Jones said he’s more mature this year about football, learning new techniques and reading coverages on both sides of the ball. He’ll be Gilman’s most dynamic offensive threat this coming season succeeding Jennings, who was the area’s consensus top offensive player in 2010. Jennings will be a freshman at the University of Virginia in the coming fall.
“It was great to sit behind Darius Jennings for three years and see how he took everything on,” said Cyrus. “Even though it’s my senior year, I’ve always considered myself a leader on this team. I’m not a real talkative guy but I like to lead with what I do on the field.”
Jones, ranked 14th nationally among “athletes” by Rivals, is one of the area’s and state’s most sought after prospects in the Class of 2012, already holding dozens of scholarship offers including 2011 BCS champ Auburn University, Alabama, Maryland, Oregon, Penn State and Virginia Tech. He said he’ll make a decision after the season.
“I’m taking everybody into consideration. It’s a tough situation; you got a lot of people saying different things to you,” said Jones, who will play in the Under Armour All-American game in January. “You got to take the real with the fake.”
There’s definitely nothing fake about his talents.
“He’s made his own name,” said Diego Jones, watching from top of the stands at St. Paul’s last weekend. “Now, I’m just his father.”