Selection by Bills reunites ECUs Jones with old college position coach

Receivers coach Phil McGeoghan helped Zay Jones break records with the Pirates last season. Now theyre together again with the Buffalo Bills after the NFL team drafted Jones in the second round Friday

James Guillory—USA TODAY Sports
; USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Zay Jones (7) runs with the ball during the first quarter against Connecticut Huskies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville

Zay Jones ran into his former ECU position coach Phil McGeoghan at the NFL’s predraft Combine in Indianapolis in February.It was just a brief encounter, barely long enough to say hello. But it’s a conversation that turned out to be quite prophetic.”He said if he got the opportunity to coach me again that he would love it,” Jones recalled. “I told him if I could play for him again I would love it.”As far-fetched as the possibility might have seemed at the time, it actually became a reality Friday when McGeoghan’s new team — the Buffalo Bills — drafted his old college receiver with the fifth pick of the second round (37th overall).The Bills were in need of a reliable second receiver to help take some of the pressure off their best pass-catcher Sammy Watkins and Jones fit the bill. They were so anxious to get him that they moved up seven spots in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams to make sure the record-setting Pirate didn’t slip away to another team.”We looked at it last night when we broke and the ice was getting awful thin, really, at the wide receiver position in general,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in a teleconference Friday. “There weren’t quite as many wide receivers, a few of them went early, and then there weren’t many around at this level and we valued Zay. We felt that we wanted to go get him and made sure we got our guy.”Jones broke the FBS single-season record for receptions last year by catching 158 passes for ECU. He also owns the FBS career mark with 399 grabs.McDermott said those numbers, combined with his off-the-field demeanor and pedigree — his father Robert played 10 seasons in the NFL — made it difficult for his team to overlook the 6-foot-2, 193-pound Texan.The fact that he came so highly recommended by McGeoghan only sealed the deal.”If having his ex-coach in the building didn’t help, I’d be lying to you,” McDermott said. “So we feel good about being thorough with our research and with Coach McGeoghan in the building, it certainly helped getting to know Zay, both his skillset on the field, what he can and can’t do, and then off the field as well.”Despite his record-setting college performance, Jones has continually had to answer critics that questioned everything from his speed to his route-running ability to the level of competition he faced at a non-Power 5 school.He took a major step toward dispelling those concerns at both the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Now that he’s a member of the Bills, he’s looking forward to ending the debate once and for all.McDermott said he that plans to take advantage of Jones’ versatility by using him as both an inside and outside receiver, much the same way McGeoghan and head coach Scottie Montgomery did at ECU last season. Either way, the the Biletnikoff Award runnerup said he’s confident in his ability to make plays and contribute.”I would say I am a natural football player. I have natural instincts for the game,” he said. “I have the best hands in this draft class, I am a pass catcher and I can get open quick, separation and go score. And besides that I am great teammate, a great teammate. I play for my team. (I’m an) all-around hard worker.”He said his transition from college star to NFL rookie has been helped greatly by the preparation he received from working with both Montgomery and McGeoghan — both of whom were successful NFL receivers in their own right.”I would say Coach McGeoghan really got me pro ready when it came to this last year,” Jones said. “He introduced me to the entire route tree and just different things and it has really helped develop my game becoming a complete wide receiver. So a lot of credit to thank him for the things he has done for me and I am only going to get better going up north.”Jones said he can’t wait to be reunited with his former college coach and renew the relationship they talked about during that chance meeting in Indy two months ago.”(He’s) just a great mentor,” Jones said of McGeoghan. “(He) reminds me a lot of my father the things, the ways he teaches, the way that he commands the room. I have a lot of respect for him.”You know he likes to tell me you can have fun, you can be cool, but at the end of the day you know it is business and I have to get my job done because we have to defend the team. “So it is a great balance of friendship, love and respect.”