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Nic Jones credits baseball to early pick at Chiefs’ rookie minicamp

Kansas City’s seventh-round pick referenced centerfield skills when talking about his minicamp interception.

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NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Under general manager Brett Veach, the Kansas City Chiefs have kept their cornerback room stocked with Day 3 picks like Rashad Fenton, L’Jarius Sneed, Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson. The weekend before last, Veach picked two defensive backs on Saturday of the NFL Draft. Only one of them is a true cornerback.

Ball State graduate Nic Jones was the team’s final draft pick, a seventh-round selection taken nine picks before “Mr. Irrelevant.” The first draft selection from Ball State’s football program since 2020, Jones didn’t waste any time making an impression on Chiefs Kingdom.

During Saturday’s rookie minicamp session in Kansas City, Jones tipped a pass from quarterback Chris Oladokun — and then corralled it for an interception. After only three picks in 29 career college games, the 6-foot, 189-pound cornerback with 81st-percentile arm length felt redeemed by the strong early impression.

“It just felt good to make a play on the ball,” Jones admitted to media representatives before Sunday’s practice session. “It was what I wanted to show since I got here — that I have ball skills. I can run with guys down the field and take the ball.”

Rookie teammates like sixth-round pick defensive tackle Keondre Coburn took notice.

“I was on the field when he did it,” he recalled. “When I turned around, I saw somebody jump, I saw he hit it, and it came back in his hands. He just said, ‘Oh!’

“Then I see everybody run, so I just ran and looked for the quarterback. He was just going down the sideline... that was an amazing play right there.”

Starting in his true freshman season, Jones played legitimate snaps for Ball State. Along with his three picks, he registered 19 passes defended — showing that even if it didn’t lead to turnovers, he could produce as a ball hawk.

But according to Jones, the instincts to complete Saturday’s big play took more than just football skills.

“I played a lot of sports growing up,” he revealed. “I was a baseball player when I was little, was a receiver before I was a corner. I always felt like it was kind of natural.

“You just get so used to playing the ball out of the air. I never would have thought I’d end up at cornerback when I was playing centerfield at 12 years old; I guess it worked out.”

This natural athleticism could help him make August’s 53-man roster — not only as a cornerback but also as a special-teams contributor. If he makes the roster, there’s no guarantee he’ll play a traditional cornerback role — but that possibility doesn’t faze him; he denies feeling very much pressure.

“I’m kind of thriving in that role of, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” he reflected. “I’m willing to embrace that I don’t know what I’m doing. I think I try to use that to the best of my advantage. When you mess up, it’s a teaching moment now; it’s the perfect time to mess up.”

When he eventually lines up against the Kansas City offense, he’ll have comfort in facing a familiar face: wide receiver Skyy Moore.

“I got to play against Skyy Moore three times,” Jones recalled. ”It was fun, to say the least.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 Western Michigan at Ball State Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the three years Moore played at Western Michigan, he totaled 203 yards on 17 catches in three games — but he didn’t score against Jones’ Ball State teammates.

“I would say we, as a whole, won those battles because it was never just one guy guarding Skyy,” he explained. “There were a handful of plays with Skyy one-on-one, and there was always going to be a safety giving you that look, letting you know you had a little help. He was dangerous.”

Jones didn’t record any notable statistics in the matchups but feels good about the impression he left on his new teammate.

“He’d tell you I was one of those guys,” Jones assured his listeners. “We probably gave him the best game out of everybody in the MAC. He never gave us crazy work, but it was still Skyy Moore; he went off on everybody.”

While Jones shows signs of the self-confidence it takes for a Day 3 cornerback to make the team, he knows there’s a long road to travel before being the next Fenton or Watson.

“I just want to show I can belong,” he said. “I feel like this is Step 1 to showing I belong. I just want to take it one moment, one day at a time.”

While he will have more opportunities to prove he deserves a chance, nothing will truly matter until those few weeks of training camp in St. Joseph, Missouri. Jones has a steeper hill to climb than many of his rookie teammates, but his athletic background — and his confidence — should give him a fighting chance.

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