LA Rams RB Xavier Jones wriggles into end zone and perhaps 53 man roster

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

LA Rams RB Xavier Jones could be one of the few undrafted rookies to wriggle onto the roster, just like he wriggles into the endzone

The LA Rams really did not give undrafted rookies much of a chance this season. To be fair, no NFL team did, or could.  The opportunities to get fans to their feet for a surprise touchdown run or catch, an interception out of nowhere, or even with a huge tackle for a loss, never appeared. Those highlight reels disappeared at the moment the NFL canceled all preseason games. With the NFL season starting so soon after the start of training camp, most teams directed repetitions to their starters.

Undrafted rookies waited their turn in camp, listening for the coach to call out “development squad!”. That wait sometimes seemed like forever.  And on some days, it nearly was. Waiting in shorts and short-sleeved shirts in the summer heat is tough. After the pads went on, that standing around became almost like torture. A painful gauntlet to test the mind just as conditioning and exercises had tested the body. To get an NFL career, you need to want it enough to endure through it all.

Will to endure

Former Southern Methodist University running back Xavier Jones wants it enough to endure. Doors have been shut to him before. Odds have always been stacked against him. But he has endured. Despite claiming the NCAA football scoring title for 2019, he did not receive an invitation to the 2020 NFL Scouting combine. When the 2020 NFL Draft arrived, he did not hear his name called out.

Some encounter that amount of resistance and falter, letting the doubts of others become their own self-doubts.  That’s not how Xavier Jones works.  He believes in himself. And why shouldn’t he? He scored 25 touchdowns in one college season.  That’s more than the entire LA Rams receiving corps scored last season.  In fact, that’s more than the LA Rams entire group of running backs last year. And Xavier Jones played three fewer games.

Imposing that will

Scoring 25 times in a single season was not open lanes. Xavier Jones imposed his will on the football field.  Just check out this video and tell me just how often he eluded tacklers on his way to the end zone. He didn’t get invited into the end zone. Nobody stepped out of his way. In fact, on each and every run or reception into the end zone, at least eleven persons were determined to stop him from doing so.

He scored anyways. At will.  He imposed his will upon the football field. He wanted it more.

Now the LA Rams possess the next goalline for Jones to cross over. He wants to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Only this time, he does have an ally. All-Pro Aaron Donald likes what he sees in the undrafted rookie.

Perhaps greatness recognizes greatness.

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Will a roster spot await?

The competition is nearly over. The LA Rams are just six days from dismissing 27 players from the active roster. The depth chart for the running backs has veteran Malcolm Brown and rookie Cam Akers likely getting snaps in the season opener. Second-year back Darrell Henderson will likely get some plays after he heals up his hamstring. Running back John Kelly knows the Rams offense and had a strong showing in the second scrimmage game.

And then there is undrafted rookie Xavier Jones. A gutsy young man who has caught the attention of one of the most accomplished NFL defenders of the modern NFL. A young man who has overcome no Combine, no Pro day, no direct contact with NFL teams, and not even hearing his name called out at the 2020 NFL Draft. Here he is, waiting with 79 other players to learn what the LA Rams have decided about his future.  27 players will be sent packing.

Life after cuts

Some may return to the practice squad. A few more may be signed to other teams.  Whether or not a roster spot awaits is not the true point. Competing as hard as you can for as-long-as-you-can should give enough reason for each player who parts ways with the Rams to hold their head up high.

But there it is. The goal of making the 53-man roster. And there stands Xavier Jones. He is a player who finds a way to wriggle, juke, spin, elude, and burst across that goal better than anyone.  Making the 53-man roster is just one more goal.  And by all accounts, almost nobody can stop Xavier Jones from crossing that goal when he sets his will to it.

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The odds may be overwhelming stacked against him.  But don’t rule him out.  In fact, the safest bet may be to bet on Xavier Jones after all. Building a championship roster is more than just finding the biggest, the fastest, or the most agile. A championship roster is built by assembling the most determined players. Who is more determined than Xavier Jones?