He might be a first-round NFL draft pick Thursday night, only the second in UConn history, when the three-day event kicks off in Chicago. That would make him the first Connecticut-born player selected in the opening round since Bloomfield's Dwight Freeney went to Indianapolis with the No. 11 pick in 2002.
Jones got here because of athleticism, work ethic, devotion, a high football IQ and, of course, ability.
All that is just part of the answer because family, led by his father, Don, a retired state trooper, and mother, Garnette, a self-proclaimed "Mother Bear," provided a good base for him and his three older brothers. Faith was part of the equation, as was competition among the Jones brothers.
Nate (29), Aaron (27) and Winston (27) all played sports, so Byron (22) had to keep up.
"Well, they all played football," Garnette said. "I remember when Nate was on the football team [at New Britain High], I remember him whipping the ball, practicing, just whipping the ball, and Aaron got tired of catching him.
"Byron must have been about 10 or 11. He said, 'I'll catch you, Nate, I'll catch them for you,' and it's this huge football ... he would just stand out there with the full force of the ball coming at him and he didn't even care. He was keeping up with his big brother, so he had a love for the game, early, but he was keeping up with his brothers, too. He didn't want to get left behind and he saw they were competitive."
Said Don: "I think the competition among them had a lot to do with it, no question. He had to keep up with his older brothers and he was just determined."
Aaron is in the Navy and Winston is in the Marines. Both are deployed and will be unable to attend the draft. Nate, an electrical engineer at Electric Boat, will be there, although he is supposed to be in Guam working on submarine simulators.
Nate's co-workers took on his workload so that he could support his baby brother. Nate will join his co-workers a few days after the draft. Byron's football coach at St. Paul-Bristol, Jude Kelly, and one of his favorite teachers at the school, Norma Kendrick, also will attend the draft. Byron's agents, Jared Fox and Al Herman, and the family (Clarence and Victoria Hunter) that hosted him for a 2013 internship for Connecticut House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty in Washington will also attend. Byron's girlfriend, Alicia, his parents, Fox and Nate will be at the table on the floor of the draft — where no UConn player has sat before.
"Byron did the work to get where he is and I know we had faith," Garnette said. "When you couple that together, you just don't know what can come out of it. Byron is humble, for sure, but Byron knows God is with him. He knows that and he knows he has a plan for his life. Whatever the destiny, whatever the plan, he will walk it out. And right now it's the NFL, and it's like, OK."
When Jones, a cornerback, sustained a season-ending shoulder injury at East Carolina in October, the Huskies' seventh game of the season, things didn't look so good. He was a potential draft pick when the injury occurred, but he would miss valuable time and also needed to rehab in time for the NFL combine.
"I remember when he got injured, I said, 'Oh, no God, now what?'" Garnette said. "We're a family of faith and I prayed. I just felt like God gave me that Scripture [Romans 8:28], 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God' and I said, 'OK, God, I'm trusting you on this one.' And Byron saw me at the surgery and was healing and I've got my prayer warrior friends, we're all praying for him, for it to heel complete and speedily, and I had a peace about that."
It worked out. Jones had his record-breaking 12 feet, 3 inches in the broad jump, and 44.5 inches in the vertical jump. NFL personnel took notice, which is why many project him in the first round, some as high as No. 20 to the Eagles or No. 22 to the Steelers. Jones' head always seemed to be on straight, in part because of parental involvement.
"Growing up, my father wasn't in the house," Don said. "I always said that if I became a father, I would always be involved in their lives at all times because I think it's important. I coached them all in baseball and some in basketball and just being at all their events when I could. ... I, my wife and I, were there to support them and encourage them in whatever they did, and I think that's important. So, I think they had a good family base, parents who expected them to work hard every day at everything they did, but also understanding that with God at the head of your life, you can accomplish a great deal."
Now it all comes to a head.
"When people say, 'You must be so proud of Byron' ... I say wait, back up," Garnette said. "I'm equally proud of all of my sons because we told them from the start, you do what you've got to do — go to college, the military or a trade school — but you've got to get up out of here. They knew what the deal was and each of them followed it. Whatever gift, ability, your child has, you just encourage it, you let them know you believe in it, believe in them and you keep telling them, 'God has a plan for your life. You'll figure it out. Just keep walking.'"