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Unplugged: Former USU, NFL great Rulon Jones enjoys life in the great outdoors

Published: Saturday, July 5 2014 7:35 p.m. MDT

Jones did not jump on the former players' bandwagon regarding the concussion syndrome lawsuit.

"They sent me a lot of the forms on that," he said. "Sure, I had a couple concussions, but I think I'm doing great. I mean, I'm pretty dumb anyway. But I don't have that good of a memory of a lot of stuff like some people do." As to the use of steroids and painkillers, Jones feels like he dodged a bullet in that regard.

"We were in that era," he said. "When we first got into the league, the illegal drugs were very prevalent — steroids and painkillers. And I remember it was probably about 1983 or '84 they started drug testing. And that's when, I think it was probably two years later, they said, 'Now we know everybody that's on steroids.' When I first went there (to the NFL), I mean, teams were giving out steroids.

"But we were lucky in Denver. We had a guy named Stan Jones who was our weight coach, and he was one of the pioneers of weightlifting. He was an offensive and defensive lineman back in the day, but he'd been around steroids and he really didn't believe in 'em. And then with my church background and all that, I didn't really get involved in it. But it seemed like all those guys — I had roommates that were shooting a lot of steroids, huge guys — who were into it."

In fact, the defensive lineman who Jones replaced in Denver, Lyle Alzado, later blamed the use of steroids on what became a brain tumor that ended his life.

A DIFFERENCE MAKER

Jones started his NFL career strongly, enjoying a great rookie season and a solid second season as well. But in his third year in Denver, he sustained a knee injury that brought him to a career crossroads. And that's when Coach Marinelli stepped in to offer vital encouragement again.

"I had a really good first season, a good second year, and I made alternate All-Pro my second year and everybody said this guy, he's got to be All-Pro," Jones recalled. "But then I blew my knee out against the Raiders and it was my posterior cruciate, and they don't repair those. It was all about sacks, all about numbers, and I was saying that third year, 'Hey, this is my year.' And I started out really good and had four or five sacks the first few games, so after the injury, it was all about getting back and playing again.

"They put me on I.R. (injured reserve) for four weeks and I came back and had a brace on it, and I came back too soon. There's no way I should've been playing; I got my butt kicked all year that year.

"The next season ... I just wasn't having a good year, and there was a lot of emotional stuff going on," Jones said. "You've got to believe, 'Hey, I am the best guy out there and I'll beat anybody.' That's the frame of mind you've got to be in, and I was losing that. And there was an article in The Denver Post. I can't remember what it said, but basically I was saying, 'I don't know if my knee's good, I don't know this and that,' and I just questioned myself. And somebody must've sent it to Rod Marinelli.

"And he sent it back to me and he had crossed through stuff and crossed out one of my quotes and said 'B.S., you know you're better than that!' And it really helped me; it turned me around. I didn't make All-Pro that year but the next year, I think I made the Pro Bowl. So he was very instrumental in my life, not only when I was playing for him but afterwards, too. He's one of the best, hardest-working guys you'll ever meet."

Along with Marinelli, who has been an NFL head coach and is now the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, Jones credits his high school basketball coach, the late Dick Conolly, for making a huge difference during his formative years.

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