The Pittsburgh Steelers officially announced the signings of ten undrafted free agents Saturday night and the list included Shepherd outside linebacker Howard Jones. Jones will likely be considered one of the Steelers higher-priority undrafted free agents and that should reflect in the signing bonus given to him. Below is the draft profile of Howard that Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services passed along to me.
Outside Linebacker/Defensive Rush End
Shepherd University Rams
Freedom High School
Outside of the most astute professional scouts, little was known about the Rams’ standout defensive end. Not even his coaches knew much about Jones when he first walked on to the program in 2008, observing football games for two years before he was finally given the opportunity to play.
Jones more than seized that “opportunity,” as he would become just the third defensive lineman in school history to receive All-American honors and joined running back Damian Beane (1997-99) as the only Rams to receive that prestigious honor three times. The rush end would not only establish himself as the elite defensive prospect in the NCAA Division II ranks, he would etch his name into several of college football’s record charts.
Among active NCAA Division II performers, he leads that group in total sacks (35.0), solo sacks (33), yards lost via sacks (245). He also leads in total tackles-for-loss (69.5), solo stops behind the line of scrimmage (65), tackle-for-loss yardage (350) and placed fifth with an average of 1.48 tackles-for-loss per game. His eight forced fumbles are 12th among the active players.
For his career, Jones moves into a sixth place tie on the Division II all-time record chart with his 69.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, as his average of 1.48 tackles-for-loss are 22nd on the career chart. His 35.0 sacks are tied for seventh in Division Ii history, as his average of 0.74 sacks per game rank 27th.
If those football field performance numbers did not open eyes in the scouting industry, Jones’ outstanding “body of work” at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine had all in attendance raving about his raw athletic ability. His 4.60-second time in the 40-yard dash was third-best for all down linemen in the event. Considering he will likely shift to linebacker in the pro ranks, that figure was fifth-best with linemen and linebackers combined.
Jones’ 40 ½-inch vertical jump was best for the down linemen and second-best when the linebackers were included at the 2014 Indianapolis event. It was also the ninth-best for any defensive lineman that attended a Combine in the last ten years. He performed a 10’-4” broad jump, which led the down linemen and tied for fifth when linebackers were included in this 2014 comparison. His 7.16-second three-cone drill was fifth-best among “front seven” defenders at the 2014 Combine.
The results were somewhat unexpected. While projected top-10 picks such as Jadeveon Clowney, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins drew praise from scouts and analysts, none of them finished atop their position groups.
In fact, the best performers were mostly unheralded prospects, as Jones outperformed all other defensive linemen; Nevada offensive tackle Joel Bitonio was the leading offensive lineman and Louisville’s Damian Copeland finished atop a deep wide-receiver class.
Jones was nowhere near anybody’s “recruiting radar” while attending Freedom High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. That could be due to the fact that the gridiron team won just four of 29 games played during the course of the 2005-07 seasons. He joined the Shepherd program as a walk-on, but red-shirted in 2008 and did not participate in football during the 2009 season.
Jones returned to school in 2010. After coming off the bench in the season opener, the weak-side defensive would go on to start his final 46 games at the school. He recorded 39 tackles (29 solos) ranking second on the team with six sacks. The All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection also posted eighteen stops-for-loss.
As a sophomore, Jones shifted to strong-side defensive tackle, earning All-American, All-Region and All-WVIAC recognition. He posted just 31 tackles, but 28 were solos, as he led the league and ranked third in the nation with a school season-record 23.5 stops-for-loss. His twelve sacks also led the conference and tied for fifth in the Division II ranks.
Back at weak-side end for his junior season, Jones repeated as a national and conference award winner. He led the Rams with nine sacks and 15.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he delivered 34 tackles, including 28 solos while starting all eleven games. He closed out his career with 35 tackles and 12.5 tackles-for-loss that included eight sacks during his senior season in 2013.
Jones started his final forty-six games at Shepherd, including thirty-five at weak-side defensive end and eleven at strong-side tackle, appearing in a total of forty-seven contests as he registered 139 tackles (106 solos) with 35.0 sacks for minus 245 yards and 69.5 stops for losses of 350 yards…Deflected four passes and had one interception…Caused eight fumbles and returned one of two fumble recoveries for a touchdown…Joins Bob Palmer (1986) and Jamie Cutler (1991) as the only Shepherd defensive linemen to ever earn All-American honors…Jones also joined running back Damian Beane (1997-99) as the only Rams to receive All-American recognition three times during a career.
Jones earned All-American first-team honors from The NFL Draft Report and was named a finalist for the Cliff Harris Award (Small College Defensive Player of the Year), adding All-Mountain East Conference first-team accolades…Started all twelve games at weak-side defensive end, recording 35 tackles (21 solos) with a team-best 12.5 stops for losses of 79 yards, ranking second on the squad with eight sacks for minus 58 yards…Broke up one pass, recovered a fumble that he returned for a touchdown and caused two fumbles…He opened the season with a six-yard sack, causing a fumble on the play vs. Shippensburg…
Posted five hits with two stops for minus 11 yards vs. Fairmont State and had a 9-yard sack with seven tackles vs. Notre Dame College…Posted two sacks for losses of 20 yards, scooping up a fumble that he advanced 25 yards for a touchdown vs. West Virginia State…
Followed with a 9-yard sack in the Concord contest.
Jones earned All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report and Football Gazette, as the first-team All-Region and All-West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference choice started all eleven games, returning to weak-side defensive end after playing strong-side tackle in 2011…Recorded 34 tackles (28 solos) while leading the team with nine sacks and 15.5 stops for losses of 69 yards…Had three stops behind the line of scrimmage that included a 3-yard sack vs. Shippensburg, also posting a season-high six solo tackles…
Made both of his tackles while sacking the quarterback vs. Charleston and posted two sacks, three stops-for loss and four solo hits vs. West Virginia State…Registered a forced fumble on a 5-yard sack vs. Glenville State and had an 11-yard sacjk vs. Fairmont State before closing out the year with five solo tackles, a sack and three stops for minus 17 yards vs. Indiana (Pa.).
The All-American selection by The NFL Draft Report and Beyond Sports Network, Jones added Daktronics and Football Gazette All-Region honors, in addition to being named All-WVIAC first-team…Started all eleven games at strong-side defensive tackle, setting the school season-record while leading the league and ranking third in the Division II ranks with 23.5 stops for losses of 128 yards…Also led the conference and tied for fifth in the nation with twelve sacks for minus 97 yards…Intercepted a pass, deflected another and caused three fumbles.
Jones came off the bench in the season opener, but the second-team All-WVIAC choice started the final twelve contests at weak-side defensive end…Finished with 39 tackles (29 solos), leading the Rams with eighteen stops for losses of 74 yards, placing second on the team with six sacks for minus 43 yards…Deflected two passes and registered a pair of QB pressures…Caused two fumbles and recovered another.
Jones did not participate in football during the 2009 schedule and red-shirted after walking on at the school in 2008.
No injuries reported…Has never missed a game in college.
4.60 in the 40-yard dash…1.63 10-yard dash…2.69 20-yard dash…4.41 20-yard shuttle…
7.16 three-cone drill…40 ½-inch vertical jump…10’-4” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times…34 1/8-inch arm length…9 ½-inch hands…82-inch wingspan.
Jones attended Freedom (Woodbridge, Va.) High School, playing football for head coach John Brown
Jones is a Business major…Resides in Woodbridge, Virginia.