Heading in to training camp last season, linebacker Edgar Jones seemed destined for the waiver wire, like many undrafted rookie free agents before him.
But, he emerged from training camp a pleasant surprise.
"He's just one of those great success stories in the league," said outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine. "He came in as a rookie and flashed a couple of things, just enough to intrigue us to keep him around for another year."
A second year is more than most rookie free agents could hope for, especially one from a small school like Southeast Missouri State. Then again, Jones wasn't like most rookie free agents.
In his four years as a Redhawk, Jones tallied 53 tackles, 37 of which were solo. He was named an Associated Press All-American in 2006 and was named Defensive Most Valuable Player when he registered four sacks in a postseason All-Star game.
Of the many assets Jones carried into the NFL, the most notable is his versatility at the linebacker position and on special teams.
"One thing that has helped him land a spot on this team is his ability to learn both outside linebacker positions," Pettine said. "He's a quality player because he can do some different things. He's a good insurance policy to have."
In his first NFL season, Jones used that versatility to his advantage, recording five tackles, a sack and two special teams tackles in four games. Interestingly enough, his best performance came against Cam Cameron's offense in Miami where Jones tallied a sack on Dolphins' starting quarterback Cleo Lemon. His impressive play in the fourth quarter held the Dolphins to a field goal in the waning minutes of regulation, setting the table for an exciting overtime.
Jones finished last season playing in three of his final four games. Heading into his second year, Jones will look to build off that momentum. By some accounts, it might appear he is well on his way to earning a second season in a Ravens uniform, but that doesn't mean he's forgotten the pressure that comes with being an unproven rookie and a newcomer to the league.
"I feel a lot better now than I did at this point last year because I wasn't really comfortable," Jones said. "I didn't really know what to expect coming in, but the more comfortable I get, the more confident I get."
Such confidence has become apparent to Jones' teammates and coaches. His comfort with the team is reflected in his play.
"He's someone that our guys are drawn to because they realize he's one of us," said Pettine. "We have a theme: 'Fight like a Raven, play with your hair on fire,' and he kind of epitomizes that."
While Jones' passion to play and excel on the field has become apparent to both teammates and coaches alike, what may not be as apparent is his desire to be involved in the community.
"I'm always trying to give back to the community because without the community, we wouldn't receive the strong support that we do," Jones said. "I always try to get out there and talk and laugh with the kids and meet the fans. It's the least I can do."
Jones has been involved with many community service projects since joining the team, including Habitat for Humanity, where he helped refurbish homes for Baltimore families. He also visited students at the Maryland School for the Blind with teammates David Pittman and Ronnie Prude, where they answered questions and gave some football gear to students.
However, his favorite charity event is the annual Holiday Helpers shopping event in December where he, alongside Kyle Boller, Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle and many other teammates helped kids pick out Christmas presents last year.
"We took the kids to Target and gave them gift certificates," Jones said. "They were so excited. It was really cool to be a part of it and help make their Christmas."
With every day that goes by, Jones is becoming more comfortable with both the Ravens and the community. He's just hoping he can continue to impress his coaches and play well enough to stay an active contributor in Baltimore for a long time to come.
"He's a great character kid," Pettine said. "And the sky is the limit as far as his potential."