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Four picks, one game: Undrafted Patriots safety David Jones

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On Oct. 31, 2015, before a crowd of 8,475 at Robins Stadium, David Jones set a Richmond record.

On Oct. 31, 2015, Albany quarterback Neven Sussman threw four passes to the Richmond defense.

David Jones accounted for each of them.

A crowd of 8,475 witnessed the occurrence at Robins Stadium in Richmond, Va. And for the Spiders’ then-redshirt-junior safety – whose three picks on the season heading into homecoming weekend were already tied for the Colonial Athletic Association lead – the performance put him in the Richmond record books.

Jones intercepted Sussman, a freshman making his first start, on the Great Danes’ opening offensive snap and returned the ball 31 yards. Late in the second quarter, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder did so again on third-and-seven, bringing the Spiders back another 31 yards. Then in the third quarter, on third-and-12, Jones made an over-the-shoulder grab in the end zone for his third pick of the afternoon.

He got his fourth only three minutes later.

“They didn’t really throw the ball as much on film, but we had to make an adjustment, and I was just in the right place at the right time,” Jones said in his postgame press conference after what was a 38-31 Spiders victory. “I had to catch it first. That’s the hardest part sometimes. I had to catch it. I’m just blessed.”

Jones, who also tacked on five tackles and a fumble recovery in that meeting with Albany, became the first player in school history to intercept four passes in a game and only the fourth player to do so in CAA history.

Rhode Island’s Kevin Smith was the last to reach such a milestone – in October of 1988 against Massachusetts.

“David Jones is a great athlete, and that’s first and foremost,” ex-Richmond and current Delaware head coach Danny Rocco told reporters afterwards. “He is a fast, long, tall, rangy, talented athlete. And he can cover so much ground back there. I think there’s a lot of pictures on film when coaches are showing their quarterbacks what the defense should look like and what they should do with the ball – they’re saying you should throw the ball in there. He just covers so much ground that he shows up in those places and makes plays on the ball.”

Out of the picture yet within shouting distance, Jones wasn’t a full-time starter until 2015. He finished that year tied for the FCS lead with nine interceptions, and collected 97 tackles along with third-team All-American honors before fracturing his left forearm in the FCS semifinals.

“[Jones] has a knack for going up and high-pointing it and taking it away from receivers. He’d probably be a great receiver,” added Rocco. “And then the other thing, as most of us in this room know, he’s really physical. It has nothing to do with him getting interceptions, but he is a run-and-hit safety.”

The running, hitting and catching put the former 165-pound recruit – who first saw work on special teams and at cornerback – on the NFL radar entering 2016. Yet 2016 would not help Jones remain there due to matters of availability more than ability.

When Richmond revisited Albany this past September, the CAA’s preseason defensive player of the year re-fractured his forearm.

With that, Jones’ final collegiate season was over after six appearances, 29 tackles, two interceptions and a punt-return touchdown. And with that, he closed his Richmond career with 41 appearances, 195 tackles, 14 interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 11 punt returns and nine kickoff returns.

The redshirt senior by way of St. Petersburg, Fla., returned to the field in time for the Spiders’ pro day this March, when he logged a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds to go with a 4.32 short shuttle, a 34-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad jump. But, once projected as a third- to fifth-round pick, Jones would ultimately go all seven rounds without getting picked in April.

He got a call soon after instead.

Last Friday, the Patriots announced the signings of 19 undrafted free agents and Jones’ name stood among them. The 23-year-old now finds himself among 18 defensive backs on New England’s crowded 90-man roster.

But Jones has made a play – or four – before. Just ask Albany.

Time will tell whether he can make another in Foxborough.