Marco Jones traveled a long way before settling in at Boys' Latin to become one of the most highly recruited defensive linemen in the area. The senior, who began playing football in California at age 7, moved to Maryland in sixth grade and played at Mount St. Joseph before transferring to Boys' Latin two years ago. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end has orally committed to Virginia, where he plans to study electrical engineering.
Known as a strong pass rusher, Jones leads a defense that has allowed just seven points in its first three games. He has a sack, five hurries and 10 tackles and also plays offensive tackle. He played basketball first, and his mother, Mayka Mendoza, coached women's basketball, most recently at CCBC- Dundalk. He also works on the Boys' Latin yearbook, and he was responsible last year for the yearbook's football spread.
Question: How did you start playing football?
Answer: I started when me and my mom lived in California. She put me in a whole bunch of different sports because we were a kind of athletic family. I first played basketball, and I just wanted to try football. I played for the Modesto Rams. The first year, I couldn't play because I was overweight. That was heartbreaking. I cried, but a year after that I played. I was really good, and I had a lot of fun. That's when I fell in love with it and I stayed with it.
Q: Was there a moment when you first thought, "Hey, I'm pretty good?"
A: It was a practice and we were doing tackling drills. There was this one tackle where I just kind of flipped the guy and I was like, "Man, I like doing this." Then the coaches congratulated me, and that's when I started to play more, so I think that was the time.
Q: Why did you transfer from St. Joe to Boys' Latin?
A: It was first because of the money situation, and then also I didn't really groove with the coaches there. We just felt that it was a good time to leave. It just wasn't the right fit.
Q: Did you sit out a year when you came to Boys' Latin?
A: Yeah. When I transferred here, I had broken my thumb, so I couldn't really play as well as the year before when I was at Mount St. Joe (and) I had a couple C's and stuff on my report card. They gave us the option to repeat or not. Then when you transfer, the rules are that you have to sit out a year, so I just decided to repeat a grade — sophomore year.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a defensive end?
A: I like hitting the quarterback. I like making plays. I just like beating the offensive linemen off the line.
Q: Do you have that switch when you get in there where you become sort of a mean guy?
A: Yeah (laughs). I think so. When I'm in the game, a different me comes out. I just have that switch that I turn on.
Q: Is there a strong camaraderie among the linemen?
A: We're definitely a family. We try to stick together as much as possible so we can win games. I think that's why we do win, because we stick together and we work hard together as a team. I think that's the only way to win.
Q: How much of your position is size and how much is skill?
A: I'm not really that tall compared to other guys. Most of it is skill, but I have a lot of size that I definitely think is beneficial, that strength. It always helps.
Q: How did you meet the Virginia coaches?
A: Last summer, coach (Ritchie) Schell took us to the Richmond camp and that's when we first met Coach (Mike) London and the other coaches. They offered me out of the Richmond camp, but they were like, "This guy is going to get a whole bunch of Division I scholarships." I just thought they were really great guys. After that, Coach London got the job at Virginia and he came back and spoke to me again. He said they'd offer me, and everything just kind of fell into place.
Q: You had some programs in your top 11 offers — Penn State, West Virginia, Stanford — that win a lot more than Virginia. Did you just want to be part of a program that seems to be on the rise?
A: I definitely wanted to be a part of something that was new and coming. The coaches were new, and the recruiting was starting to come along. I just wanted to help them become the best. That's sort of what I helped do here, going to a kind of no-name football school and helping us almost win the (Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference) championship last year. Hopefully, we'll get it this year.
Q: What is the one food you could eat all day?
A: Fried chicken. Pizza! It is pizza. I could definitely eat pizza all day.
Q: When you come home after being at Virginia for a while, what are you going to ask your mom to cook for you?
A: Probably her famous dish, rice and chicken. She just puts all these spices in it because we're Panamanian. Really good Spanish food. And macaroni and cheese.
Q: What does your mom mean to you?
A: My mom, she means everything to me. She's all I've got, really. That was another reason why I chose UVa. — so she could come see me play and so I could get away from Maryland at the same time. She's the reason I work hard at everything I do, and she keeps me focused. She's tough on me a lot, but it's for a reason.