By Logan Lowery
MEMPHIS – Tupelo’s P.J. Jones has been healthy a total of one day during the 2013 campaign.
The Mississippi State junior defensive tackle suffered an injury to his foot in the Bulldogs second practice this fall and has battled through the pain ever since.
“I’ve just been playing through the pain basically all year,” Jones said. “Hey, it’s football. Coach (David) Turner says that we’re all hurting and he’s right. Justin Malone and Kaleb Eulls kind of back-sided me that day in practice. Dillon Day and I were engaged and they just rolled on me. It hasn’t gotten any better since then. I’ve just had to toughen up.”
Jones missed the Alcorn State and Troy games trying unsuccessfully to give the injury time to heal. He started the other 10 games notching 23 tackles and three tackles for loss on the year as well as his first career sack against Texas A&M.
“He’s a tough kid,” said MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. “I think when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best three techniques in the SEC. That’s saying a lot with the quality of D-linemen that we have in this league.”
The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder can usually be found in a walking boot when not on the practice or game field. But Jones does not anticipate having to undergo surgery following Tuesday’s Liberty Bowl against Rice.
“I think it will heal over time,” Jones said. “I hope it’s not bad enough to have surgery. It could get worse but I’m hoping for the best.”
Sophomore cornerback Taveze Calhoun might have finished the regular season better than any other Bulldog.
In the final three games, Calhoun picked off Alabama’s A.J. McCarron twice, grabbed the game-winning interception in overtime against Arkansas and made 11 tackles in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss.
“The last three games that Taveze Calhoun had were as fine as anybody in this league,” Collins said. “He’s a big, physical kid that’s highly intelligent and a high character kid. He’s got great length and he studies his opponent as well as anybody. He was best friends with John Banks and studied what he did.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder from Morton filled the shoes of the 2012 Thorpe Award-winning Banks this season. Calhoun made 11 starts recording 43 tackles, 1.5 stops for loss, three interceptions, four pass breakups as well as forcing and recovering a fumble.
“I have a lot of confidence because I know our coaches are going to have a good game plan for us and my teammates will help me out,” Calhoun said. “I know when I step onto the field other guys are going to do their job and that makes my job easier.”