Since less than one percent of all high school football players will play on Sundays in the NFL, you can imagine how rare it is that two high school teammates made it and will go against one another this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills receiver Donald Jones and Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, grew up together and played on the same Plainfield, New Jersey high school football team before they took two very different paths to the NFL.
Jones understands how unique that is and is proud that they have represented where they came from.
"It's a great accomplishment," Jones said. "Representing our city back home, playing in the same game, I'm sure he feels the same way, so were just going to go out and try to get a win."
They were very close growing up in high school and still try to stay in contact today.
"We were very close, very close" he said. "We basically grew up together, drove to school together, things like that…we still stay in contact. We talk about once a month."
Monroe was a highly touted player that wound up attending the ACC's University of Virginia and was the eighth overall pick in 2009.
Donald Jones had to attend Junior college (Lackawanna CC) due to NCAA clearing house problems that prevented him from enrolling at the University of Wisconsin. Jones takes responsibility for that time in his life, and realizes how lucky he is to have made it to the NFL.
"It was very, very tough," Jones said. "But you know everything that happened I brought it on myself. I knew when I was in high school, I wasn't doing what I should have been doing (academically), it was tough, it has been a long road for me, but I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish."
After enjoying a productive JUCO career, Jones started gaining interest from Division I schools like Temple, Syracuse, Ole Miss, and even Monroe's school, Virginia. He chose Ole Miss but endured difficulty again when the new coaching staff did not sign him because they did not want to sign junior college players, due to less years of eligibility.
The rookie receiver finally found a college at Youngstown State (Ohio) and he is grateful for the opportunity they gave him. He knew he had to take advantage of it and believed if he worked hard enough he could still make it to the NFL.
"I chose Youngstown state for the winning tradition over the past years," Jones said. "It was not too far from home, and I figured if I was good enough, they (NFL teams) would find me."
When both players were going through the draft process, Monroe one year before Jones, they both supported each other and were happy to see each other get signed.
"We talked a few times when he was getting drafted but I didn't want to talk to him too much because everybody was calling him about the same thing," Jones said. "When I was going through the process, he advised me on stuff like agents, what teams were looking for, things like that, just giving me advice because he had been through it before."
Now that they are playing against each other on Sunday, the competitive juices will be flowing. Jones know the Jaguars have an aggressive secondary and notes the Bills need to run the ball and put themselves in manageable down and distances in order to have success. Jones is confident that the Bills offense can score against their defense if they play smart, and play to their potential.
"Their corners like to play physical," Jones said. "One of their corners (Rashean) Mathis likes to be physical. But they are a basic, traditional team. They don't run a lot of blitzes and things like that, nothing too special.
"We have to run the ball effectively, stay out of third and longs, keep it short distances on third downs…keep our defense off the field, keep our offense driving down the field and we can score some points."
And having bragging rights on one of his best friends won't hurt either.