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Elijah Jones Paving Path to Prove He Earned It

The youngest of three brothers, rookie cornerback was raised around competition

Cornerback Elijah Jones works out during rookie minicamp on Friday.
Cornerback Elijah Jones works out during rookie minicamp on Friday.

During pregame warmups, Elijah Jones will have his headphones on as he tries to lock in before kickoff.

The last song he'll queue up, the one that will carry him out of the tunnel, is called "Earned It" by Chief Keef.

It's an appropriate way to summarize the third-round pick's journey to the NFL.

Raised in Harlem, New York, Jones, the youngest of three brothers, saw his siblings and dad lacing up their sneakers to play basketball. Despite growing up in a town that wasn't nearly as passionate about football, Jones wanted to prove that people from his area could play football at a high level.

"You talk about that confidence and swagger that kind of comes with it," the cornerback said. "You just automatically have a chip on your shoulder growing up there."

While the concrete jungle is where dreams are made of, Jones felt that there was nothing he couldn't do. He set his focus on paving a path to the NFL.

His brother, who played Division I basketball, was a driving force for him to forge his own identity.

"He never tried to push (basketball) on me," Jones said. "I hooped all the way through high school, but I always knew for myself that football was the route I wanted to go."

He said that there's a handful of other New Yorkers in the league, "you just have to find them." If a successful rookie season is on the horizon, Jones will be a can't-miss talent for the Cardinals. Standing at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Jones is a lengthy cornerback that can be disruptive on the outside.

During his meeting at the Scouting combine with the Cardinals, the coaching staff was prepared to go through some of Jones' film from Boston College. The way Jones was able to recall the situation before Nick Rallis pressed play impressed the defensive coordinator.

"I kid you not, I was sitting there taking notes, I was like, 'Gosh, this is a great way to prepare,'" Rallis said. "It was an unbelievable process that he takes on a week-to-week basis studying his opponent."

It also helps that coach Jonathan Gannon is one of the best in the game at developing cornerbacks.

"It's a blessing," Jones said, also adding that his college coach, Jeff Hafley, was similar to Gannon. "Just being able to pick his brain and even during our (individual) period, sometimes he just comes over and gives you little nuggets."

Jones said that Gannon has been a top resource for all of the defensive backs as rookie minicamp began on Friday. Jones is one of four defensive backs the Cardinals have on the roster, including cornerbacks Max Melton and Jaden Davis, and safety Rabbit Taylor-Demerson.

Having such a young core, in Jones' eyes, is good because they could find "that chemistry and grow together."

It also creates competition in a way that replicates his upbringing in New York and with his siblings.

All to prove that he earned it.

"There were a lot of things that came around where it was always competitive," Jones said. "Everything literally was just me following in their footsteps and losing every battle I could until I became big enough to finally fight my own. It was just great to be able to put that and apply it all the way through life."