How New Patriots Linebacker Knew Mac Jones Was ‘Special’ Years Ago

'He just had a swagger'


Mac Jones was just a scout-teamer when he and Mack Wilson overlapped at Alabama, buried behind Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts on a loaded quarterback depth chart.

But even then, back when Jones only saw the field in practice or garbage time, Wilson knew. He knew he was watching a future star.

Wilson, who was traded to Jones’ New England Patriots earlier this offseason, was downright effusive Tuesday in his praise of the second-year QB, saying he realized years ago — before many of their Crimson Tide teammates — that Jones was “going to be special.”

“I tell a lot of people I knew Mac when he was a pup,” the linebacker said in his introductory video conference, “and just seeing how much he grew as a person and a player, it amazed me. Because growing up, and obviously when we were in college, I was telling everybody back home, friends and family, like, Mac Jones is going to be special.

“And a lot of guys didn’t believe me. Even some of the guys that were on our team didn’t believe me. I just saw something in him. He’ll tell you himself — I just saw something in him that just made me be like, ‘Hey, this kid is going to be special.’ “

Wilson, who affectionately refers to Jones as “Mac No. 2,” said the QB’s confidence quickly won him over. Many of Jones’ Patriots teammates have said the same since he arrived in New England last spring.

“He just had a swagger,” Wilson said. “You know a lot of guys come in as freshmen all uptight and things like that. Mac just had swagger, and that’s something that caught my eye. He made some big plays. He made some great throws. Even when he scrambled, he had a little juice in him. It was just different little small things that made me like, ‘Hey, I like Mac. He’s going to be good.’ I believed in it, and obviously, it’s coming true.”

Wilson left for the NFL after the 2018 season. At that point, Jones had attempted just 13 passes in his collegiate career. It wasn’t until 2020 that Jones became Alabama’s first-choice starter, but he immediately flourished in that role, throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with four interceptions en route to an undefeated national championship.

The Patriots drafted Jones 15th overall shortly thereafter, and he enjoyed a promising debut season, finishing second in NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and guiding New England back to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. He capped the season by stealing the show in the Pro Bowl as an AFC alternate and will enter training camp as New England’s no-doubt starter behind center.

None of this surprised Wilson.

“Even though I intercepted him a couple times at practice, I used to always tell him just stay working, man, just stay patient, and your time will come,” Wilson said. “That’s what he did, and obviously, the rest was history. But he’s just looking forward to Year 2 here, and I can’t wait to see his game develop and him go to the next level.”

Wilson is looking to revive his own career after falling out of favor with the Cleveland Browns. The 2019 fifth-round draft pick joins a Patriots team loaded with familiar faces, as New England also employs fellow Alabama products Damien Harris, Christian Barmore and Anfernee Jennings.

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