The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 27, 2013

Jones goes to Steelers

NEW YORK — Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Justin Brown will remain a passing combination in the National Football League.

Jones, who was bypassed the first two days of the draft after being mention as a possible first-round selection, was picked in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers  Saturday.

Brown, who transferred to OU from Penn State, went to the Steelers in the sixth round.

Three other Sooners were selected Saturday — wide receiver Kenny Stills by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round, defensive tackle Stacy McGee in the sixth round and defenslve lineman David King by Philadelphia in the seventh round.

Offensive tackle Lane Johnson went to Philadelphia in the first round Thursday.

Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle, who bypassed his senior year to enter the draft, went to Dallas in the fifth round.

Ex-OSU lineman Michael Bowie of Northeastern Oklahoma State, went to Seattle in the seventh round.

Jones’ selection was the highest Steelers club have taken a quarterback since using the 11th overall pick on Roethlisberger nine years ago.

“I just think it was time to start grooming a new player, freshen up the room if you will,” quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said.

Jones smashed every significant passing record during his four years at Oklahoma, throwing for 16,646 yards and 123 touchdowns while starting 50 of 52 games.

General manager Lance Colbert allowed there’s a chance Jones “will never play” for Pittsburgh, but didn’t want to let an opportunity to bring one of the most accomplished passers in NCAA history into the fold slip away.

“When you have a franchise QB like we do, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to add a young quarterback into the mix,” Colbert said. “It’s a critical position. You better keep adding young folks to that spot.”

The 24-year-old Jones said he had no contact with the Steelers until his phone rang Saturday afternoon. He considers himself a future NFL starter but has no issues coming in and learning the league behind a two-time Super Bowl winner.

“On every single team there’s going to be a quarterback that has your job,” Jones said. “You’re going to go in there, you’re going to be respectful and do all these things and compete as hard as you can.”

The Steelers have relied heavily on longtime backups Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch when Roethlisberger has been unavailable. Both are now unlikely to return after Pittsburgh signed Bruce Gradkowski to serve as Roethlisberger’s top sub and drafted Jones with an eye toward one day having a younger guy in place should Roethlisberger get hurt.

Fichtner said it is time for the 31-year-old Roethlisberger to become one of the guys who talks instead of the one who listens.

“There has been a great respect between Byron, Charlie and Ben,” Fichtner said. “I think this gives Ben an opportunity to share his experiences. That is an exciting time.”

Jones is already familiar with the Roethlisberger family. His wife, Whitney Hand, played basketball at Oklahoma with Roethlisberger’s sister, Carlee.

“My wife is pretty pumped about this whole deal,” Jones said with a laugh.

Even if it means Jones will have to wait his turn.

“I get to learn from one of the best quarterbacks to play the game,” Jones said.

Jones will have at least one familiar face in town after Pittsburgh Brown in the sixth round. Brown spent the first three seasons of his collegiate career at Penn State before transferring to the Sooners in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

The 6-foot-3 Brown gives the Steelers a big target in the red zone.

 Brown joins third-round pick Markus Wheaton as new blood on a wide receiving corps that is wide open behind starters Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

The 6-foot, 194-pound Stills was New Orleans’ first pick on Saturday because the club dealt its fourth-round pick as part of a trade with Miami in order to select Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins with the 82nd overall pick Friday night.

Stills, the son of former NFL safety Kenny Stills, had a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 at the NFL combine. His uncle, Gary Stills, also played in the NFL, at linebacker.

“Since age six, when I started playing football, I dreamed of playing in the NFL, especially being that my dad played,” Stills said. “Now I just have to go out there and prove myself and have a great career.”

Last season, Stills was named All-Big 12 after making 82 receptions for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The selection of Stills marks the third straight season that New Orleans drafted a player whose father played in the NFL. Two seasons ago, it was two in the first round in Cam Jordan and Mark Ingram. Last year, it was Nick Toon.

Stills said he believes pedigree can help.

“It’s the understanding we have about the business. We know how we have to treat it,” Stills said. “We have to come in and work our tails off every single day and nothing less is expected from us.”

Stills, who grew up in San Diego and who during high school ran routes for Drew Brees during Brees’ offseason workouts, started 38 games for the Sooners. He had 2,594 yards receiving and 24 TDs in his three seasons at Oklahoma. His 204 receptions rank third in school history.

Now he looks forward to running route for Brees in a far more meaningful context.

“It’s a prolific offense and a huge opportunity for me to go in and play with veterans, learn and be a sponge,” Stills said.

In 2010, he set Oklahoma freshman marks for receptions with 61 and yards receiving with 786. He also returned punts periodically and ran the ball a few times.

He said he would aim to be the first player in the Saints training headquarters every day and the last one out, something that might be hard to do given the long hours Brees spends in the building.

“He better be riding with him,” Payton said.

McGee comes to Oakland with a spotty off-field record, having been suspended three times at Oklahoma for marijuana possession, drunken driving and an undisclosed team violation.

“I have no problems bringing him into that locker room,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s a solid guy that made some mistakes in college. That happens sometimes. But after the thorough research that we had, we felt good about him.”

Randle is seen as a potential backup to DeMarco Murray, a former Oklahoma star.

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