Zay Jones blocking out the noise of critics

LeSean McCoy among the veterans who keep encouraging the rookie WR

Sal Capaccio
October 04, 2017 - 3:42 pm
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Zay Jones has had some early-season struggles. And he’s hearing about it from everywhere and everyone. The media. Fans. Social media.  

People are criticizing him, wondering why the Bills traded up to select the East Carolina product in the second round of this past draft. The Bills wide receiver is learning to block all of that out and says none of that matters.  He has a lot of confidence in himself and knows there will be good times and bad when playing in the NFL.

“It’s just like life,” he said while sitting at his locker after Wednesday’s practice as his 3-1 Bills get ready to travel to the 1-3 Cincinnati Bengals. “Some things go your way and some things don’t.  You’ve just got to wake up every day and just keep working. I’m no longer going to get discouraged by what people say or what people might think. I understand that now.”

The rookie then made reference to New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino and the rough outing he had in the American League wild card game Tuesday night. 

“You see the Yankees pitcher?” he asked. “I’m sure he’s an unbelievable athlete. He’ll be back. Pitching, pitching his ass off. There’s going to be some ups and downs. You just got to keep on going.”

Severino recorded only one out for the Yankees before he was pulled from their game against the Minnesota Twins. He gave up two home runs and three earned runs. It was Severino’s first-ever playoff start following a very successful 2017 regular season in which he went 14-6, made the All-Star Game, and finished third in the AL in ERA and fourth in strikeouts.

Jones was the most prolific wide receiver in major college football history after finishing his four years at East Carolina University with 399 receptions, 158 his senior season, both college football records. He’s used to having success. Now, he’s dealing with doubters.

“I received a lot of praise my senior year in college, and all of the sudden I get smacked with ‘oh, this kid’s not good, he doesn’t deserve to be here. Who is this? He can’t catch.’  I’m like, ‘oh, ok, I see how it is.’ But, I’m realizing that fans are going to watch and players are going to play. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hostility. I don’t hate anyone.  I’m not angry with anyone. I just understand how it is and I have some great veterans on this team that have helped me along tremendously with that.”

One of the veteran teammates that’s reached out to the wideout is LeSean McCoy. Both Jones and the running back spoke Wednesday about conversations they’ve had as Jones has worked through the early season inconsistencies and criticisms.

“Yeah, we’ve talked,” McCoy said about him and Jones. “I told him, even nine years, eight years in the league there’s times where I start to pace if I’m not playing well because expectation level is so high. Now certain players, they don’t feel like that. Some players can have a solid game and they’re content with that. Good thing with Zay is he’s not like that.  We share that same passion. So I’ve just been telling him, ‘keep at it, because if you weren’t good they’d go in another direction.’I think he has a lot of potential. He has a lot of talent. Just stay with. You’ve got to block out the media. You’ve got to block out friends and family, even negative opinions, because you’ll get that. And those same ones will give you credit when you do good.

“And it’s hard for a young kid because in college they’re used to being the guy on campus. The teachers love them, you know, etc., etc., so that’s probably, I think, his biggest issue. Maybe the Twitter comments and stuff like that. But he’s young and he’s a good player. So he’ll have his chance to keep making up for it and different opportunities.”

Jones is appreciative of McCoy’s support and words, as well as the other veteran players who’ve reached out to him.

“Numerous people have,” the Dallas native said. “This is not just something that happens to me. Dude, it’s football. At the end of the day, it’s hard. It’s is the National Football League.  If it were easy everyone would be out there catching passes. This is not something you just roll the ball out and do, it’s going to take time. People have came to me and said, ‘you need to do this and need to do that.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I get it. I’m going to do better. I’m going to catch the ball, I’m going to do my thing.’  

“But I ask people, ‘did you know who I was my freshman year in college?’ Usually their response is ‘no.’ So I’m like, ‘it took time for me to develop to become one of the best.’  I know I’m going to play in this league for a long time and I’m going to do well in this league with some great support around me. Shady’s one of the guys I talk to. He’s like ‘man, just keep doing your thing.  Everyone believes in you, everyone’s confident in you.’ So, there’s a lot of outside noise, but I really could care less.”

It’s not just Jones’ football family inside the Bills locker room that gives him the support he leans on. His actual immediate family is also a football family. Zay’s father, Robert, was a linebacker in the NFL for a decade and won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. His uncle, Jeff Blake, played quarterback in the NFL from 1992-2005 and made the Pro Bowl with the Bengals. Zay's brother, Cayleb, is currently a wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings, and his younger brother, Levi, is a linebacker at USC. All of those people and their experiences make things even easier for Jones to get through the tougher times.

“I think it’s almost a little unfair to have a dad who’s played in the league for ten years, who’s gone through it and played with the greats and I consider to be a great, as well,” he said. “So I lean on him for constant advice, constant guidance, and just trust him, and ultimately it’s part of the reason why I’m here.”


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