Shawn Jones joins CFL Colts' QB fight

May 21, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

For Shawn Jones, there is more to pro football than money. There is a matter of opportunity and fulfillment.

Four years after quarterbacking Georgia Tech to a national championship, Jones will try to win a job with the CFL Colts this summer, eschewing the chance to return to the Minnesota Vikings as a free safety.

Just like that, the NFL lost another black quarterback to the Canadian Football League.

Jones said yesterday from Atlanta that he has an oral agreement to join Baltimore's CFL Colts expansion team and planned to drive here this weekend.

Training camp for rookies begins Friday.

In making the decision to join the CFL, Jones rejected an offer to go back to Minnesota, where he spent last season on the practice squad as a transplanted defensive back.

"I thank God I had the experience [of being in the NFL]," he said. "A lot of guys wish they had the experience. But I also feel like -- and I thank my parents for this -- that money is not something that makes me happy. I'd like to have a lot, [but] my thing is happiness.

"I know I'll be happy playing quarterback again. Being in the NFL, I can't say I was truly, truly happy."

Jones, who turns 24 next month, will compete for the backup job behind Tracy Ham, the team's marquee player, in camp.

Clipboard candidates also include CFL veteran John Congemi and rookies Bobby Goodman and Mike Pawlawski.

The Colts acquired Jones' negotiation rights from the Ottawa Rough Riders this week in a trade for future considerations.

Jones has agreed to a one-year contract with an option.

"We're not adding a fifth quarterback just to add a fifth quarterback," coach Don Matthews said. "We wanted to add to the competitive mix for the backup job to Tracy."

As fate would have it, Jones used to emulate Ham as a high school quarterback growing up in Thomasville, Ga., where he cultivated a cross-town rivalry with Charlie Ward, a Heisman Trophy winner for national champion Florida State last season.

"We ran the wishbone," Jones said. "Everybody wanted to be like Tracy Ham, the way he ran the option. He was a technician, a magician with the ball."

Ham led Georgia Southern to two Division I-AA championships. Jones was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech, broke virtually all the passing records and led the Yellow Jackets to a UPI national championship as a sophomore in 1990.

Jones holds career records at Tech with 8,441 passing yards, 652 completions, and 51 touchdown passes. He is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leader in total offense with 9,296 yards. In the championship season, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards. In his senior year in 1992, he threw for 2,397 yards, setting the school's single season record. Tech was 31-14-1 with him at quarterback.

Jones, 6 feet 1 and 195 pounds, appears to be a perfect match with the CFL's wide-open style: A quarterback skilled at running or throwing the ball. He ran for 855 career yards at Tech.

"I can do everything," he said. "Run, throw on the run, sit in the pocket and throw. There's just about nothing I haven't seen. I've been working out with some guys who have been up there [in Canada], and I've been introduced to the differences."

Still, all 28 NFL teams passed on Jones in the 1993 college draft. He signed as a free agent with Minnesota, and was converted to free safety. The Vikings tried to bring him back for a second season.

"They showed a lot of interest," he said. "They kept calling, wanting me to come up and work out. I appreciate what they've done for me. They gave me an opportunity."

Not the right opportunity, though.

"We've got two of the better quarterbacks out of the ACC in the last few years," Jim Popp, Colts director of player personnel, said of Jones and Goodman, who played at Virginia in 1992. "Shawn is dangerous moving around. He'll be a weapon if he can take the next step."

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