In six years on head coach Bob Stitt's staff, first at Colorado School of Mines and then this past season at Montana, Nolan Swett has sat through a lot of game-planning meetings.

The opponents are always different, their schemes varied, so the offensive attack strategies evolved from week to week. In the coaches' first year in Missoula, there were a few plays that made the grade every single time. A lot of those involved No. 6, "always a good option," as Swett put it.

"If you've got a guy like Jamaal Jones, you will absolutely throw the ball deep more because he's gonna make a play more times than not," said Swett, the Grizzlies' first-year outside receivers coach.

Jones, in combination with his outside running mate Ellis Henderson, shifted Stitt's offensive design from what the longtime Division II head coach had carefully crafted at Mines and before. A pass game with heavy emphasis on shorter, high-percentage throws slowly became one dotted with high risks and even higher rewards.

The Griz thrived on the deep ball in 2015, Jones's 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns the conclusive proof.

"It's definitely something they weren't doing when they first got here and something that I had to prove to them," said Jones, a senior from Spanaway, Washington. "Just to see (Stitt) go away from what he normally did to try and get the ball in my hands a little bit more, it means a lot."

Just as Jones meant a lot to the Griz this season.


Among the first things the 6-foot-1, 190-pound pass catcher will remember from his time in maroon is the countless hours spent with his football brothers. Any player will tell you the camaraderie is what's missed most upon exiting the locker room for the last time.

But what kind of memories will cling to the walls inside his head 10, 20, 30 years down the road? Perhaps the towering mountains that whipped by the bus windows during the Grizzlies' road trips, further affirmation that Jones made the right choice in transferring to Montana after his redshirt freshman season at Washington.

"Driving through Montana is beautiful," he said, "especially with the snow-capped mountains. The amount of scenery that the state has is incredible. That's my favorite part."

Of course there was a lot to like on the field as well. Jones's 13-game performance this season, where he was voted the team's senior offensive captain, put him into special company in the annals of Griz history.

Those 1,207 yards are the fourth-most in a single-season in program history. His 74 catches rank fifth. For his career, Jones came up agonizingly close to Marc Mariani's all-time receiving record (3,018 yards) and finished with 3,011. His 183 career catches land him third in program history.

"Individually speaking, I've been productive these last three years and my stats have gone up each year," Jones said when asked to rate his career performance. "It just shows how hard I've worked off the field and what I've really put into this and how much further I have to go."

Swett praised Jones for what he's accomplished during his college career and the work he put in in the midst of a coaching regime change. Few worked harder than Jones as the end of his time at Montana drew nearer and nearer.

"With a guy like Jamaal who has such a tremendous natural ability, he doesn't necessarily have to push himself as hard as he does to still be successful," Swett said. "He still could have caught a lot of balls, been a real good receiver. What I've seen from him, that kind of constant burn and desire to always be getting better.

"I don't have to preach to him because he realizes no matter where he is today, he can always get better tomorrow."


Tomorrow, the future, is unknown for Jones right now.

The receiver hopes he falls into the small minority of college athletes whose careers don't end with the final whistle of their senior seasons. His chances to extend his playing days are about as good as any on this season's Grizzlies.

In the days since UM fell to North Dakota State in the FCS playoffs' second round this past Saturday, Jones has been in contact with a number of professional agents as he attempts to help clarify that future.

"That's why I came here," Jones said of strengthening his pro prospects. "I knew I would need some time to really get my name out. I knew if I was going to transfer to a lower division I would need at least three years to prove myself and to build up some type of consistency. 

"I definitely envisioned myself in the spot I'm in right now."

Jones is set to graduate with a communications degree this month, freeing his time to begin intensive training this winter and spring. Montana will hold its annual pro day workouts for NFL and CFL scouts sometime in March before the NFL draft and free agency signing period comes up at the end of April.

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