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ECU draft prospect hits diamond

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Football receiver Zay Jones smiles as he waits in the home dugout Friday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium before throwing a first pitch at an ECU baseball game.

NFL Combine Football

The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Zay Jones is confident enough in his unique ability to catch footballs that he isn’t concerned about his apparent lack of prowess in throwing a baseball.

On Friday night, the former ECU star receiver was a little out of his element when he was part of the baseball festivities at Clark-LeClair Stadium during a doubleheader. First, he was presented plaques for leading the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision last season in receptions per game and receiving yards per game, and then he took to the pitcher’s mound for a ceremonial first pitch.

The NFL draft prospect had imperfect form in his toss, but the key was he got the ball in the air to a crouching Bryce Harman behind home plate.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking and definitely not a strike,” said Jones, who as a senior made 158 receptions for 1,746 yards. “The practice didn’t really pay off that much, but it was fun. It was just good to be back out here and support ECU baseball.”

Jones’ weekend also included doing an autograph signing event for Aces For Autism at Sup Dogs restaurant in downtown Greenville.

The Austin, Texas, native tops the NCAA list in single-season and all-time receptions, accomplishments acquired in 2016 that helped put him prominently on NFL radars. He also helped himself a few weeks ago with strong showings in the 40-yard dash and other drills at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

When asked about the possibility of being a first-round selection, Jones was aware that his father, former ECU star linebacker Robert Jones, was the 24th pick in the 1992 draft.

“I’m trying to beat my dad, so hopefully I can get 23rd or below,” Jones said. “I’m excited about that.”

Whether or not that happens will be determined when the draft begins April 27, so for now Jones is still focused on trying to improve his stock and enjoying the process.

ECU will hold its annual pro day event for NFL scouts Thursday. After his productive showing at the NFL combine, Jones might be a limited participant for the Pirates on Thursday. He said he plans to at least run routes and catch some passes.

With the Carolina Panthers holding the No. 8 pick in both the first and second rounds, Jones remaining a football player in Carolina is a possibility as he is mainly projected anywhere from a late first-rounder to somewhere in the second. He also understands the fluidity of thinking by NFL teams during this time of year and is keeping an open mind as April approaches.

“The Panthers have shown great interest and I had the opportunity to work out for them and hopefully hear great things for them,” he said. “Other than that, I’m just going to keep doing what I do best and go out here on this pro day and perform well and we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.