D.D. Jones' first professional football contract wasn't exactly what he was hoping for, but it is a starting point. Jones, the former Delta, Bastrop High and Arkansas Razorbacks' defensive lineman, signed with the Colorado Ice of the Indoor Football League on Monday.
An undrafted free agent, the 6-4, 306-pounder from Oak Ridge signed with the Ice after attending rookie camp with the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jones played end and tackle during his high school career, before settling at tackle in college. He will play defensive end and possibly nose guard for the Ice. (As an eight-man league, IFL defenses play exclusively from a three-man front with two ends and a nose guard).
Jones' ability to plan inside or outside caught the attention of Ice coach Heron O'Neal.
"D.D has the versatility to play defensive end as well as nose guard," O'Neal said. "He's extremely strong. He had a couple of good years down at Arkansas. We're definitely excited about getting a player of his magnitude. He can move all over the field and play multiple positions. I think he will fit in seamlessly with us."
In contrast to the NFL, the IFL has no draft. Similar to minor league hockey, players are recruited. Marcus Pearson, a former Ice assistant, scouted Jones.
"Marcus Pearson said he saw all my film and liked the way I get off the ball," Jones said. "He asked me if I would rather play inside or outside and I told him I would rather play end."
As opposed to his college signing day in 2009, there was no fanfare when Jones signed his contract.
"They emailed me a contract, I signed everything and faxed it back to them," Jones said.
Jones isn't real familiar with the IFL or the Ice, but he realizes this is an opportunity.
"This is a chance to get on the field and be seen," Jones said. "I could get called up at any time by the CFL, NFL or Arena League."
Jones is actually hoping to get a call from another NFL team, before the Ice open training camp in early February at Loveland, Colo.
"My agent (Chris Turnidge) is still talking to some NFL teams," Jones said.
It isn't unusual for a player to sign with the IFL and never report.
"Before we started camp in 2013, we lost 13 players to the Arena League, the CFL and the NFL," said Ice vice-president of operations Aaron Freimark, "and we lost another player to the CFL during the season."
The IFL season begins in February and runs through June. With 40 players competing for 25 roster spots, the league's preseason camps are quite competitive.
"We have 16 or 17 ex-NFL ballplayers and five ex-CFL ballplayers on our camp roster," said O'Neal, who guided the Ice to the Western Conference finals in the 2013 season. "We get a lot of guys who have had a shot in the NFL, if only a brief one. We've stepped up our recruiting this year. We started a little early, so we're way ahead of the curve. We have 35 players signed and we're only allowed to bring 40 to camp."
In contrast to Arena Football, IFL teams are allowed to use running backs and kicks are not played off the wall. The IFL field is 28 yards wide and 50 yards long with 8-yard endzones. Two offensive players may be in forward motion at the time of the snap. There is no punting in the IFL (on fourth downs, teams may attempt to make a first down or kick a field goal).
"The game's a little different, but it's still football," said O'Neal, who coached the Billings Outlaws to three championships in the National Indoor Football League. "D.D. will have a chance for NFL scouts and CFL scouts to look at him. This is a great place to showcase your talent."