It doesn’t take long to spot Kaden Jones.
At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he is hard to miss in the middle of the Mustang defensive front. But the senior’s physical presence isn’t what sets the table for the Broncos.
“I just try to hype up my team,” said Jones, whose tenacity showed Friday night as he skipped and jumped his way onto the field for nearly every defensive snap of Mustang’s season-opening 57-26 win over Southmoore.
It comes natural according to Jones. Energy fits his leadership style and now entering his final season as a Bronco, he wants to take things up a notch. He knows his teammates look to him for an extra boost of hype.
“I feel like I’ve always been that kind of leader,” Jones said. “I like to do it vocally and with my actions. …Having that role as a senior is a little bit different, but a lot of it is the same. I’m still focused on bringing that same energy because I think it makes us all better overall.”
Jones enters the 2022 season as one of Mustang’s top defensive returners, finishing his junior year with 54 total tackles and two sacks. He also recovered three fumbles and forced one.
That type of production, along with his size, athletic ability, and motor, has not only garnered attention from opponents, but from Division 1 scouts as well. Jones currently holds D-1 offers from Kansas, Air Force, Navy, Wyoming, and Central Michigan.
“It’s a true blessing and something I always dreamed of,” Jones said of receiving his first scholarship offer and more over the last two seasons. “I’m thankful for everything God has given me. I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and it has definitely paid off.”
Football is taking Jones to places he never thought he’d see. He spent the summer traveling to different camps, including trips to TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Memphis, and Tulsa.
He even paid a visit to the White House.
“My dad and I got to go to Washington D.C. on a trip to Navy,” he said. “Seeing the White House and the different memorials, man that was awesome. It was a whole different vibe, and the people were so nice, and the food was different. We just walked around and had a great time together.”
Jones said his camp trips are already paying off. The tips and pointers he picked up from across the region helped his game develop throughout the offseason and summer, as well as a vigorous workout routine geared to add strength and speed.
“When you go to these camps you pick up little by little and it has really helped me,” Jones said. “At Memphis they talked about flipping your hips like a baseball swing. At OU they really helped me with my hands and getting off the ball.
“I’ve really been working on those things, especially the past summer. …Just trying to get better and learn.”
Mustang coach Lee Blankenship raves about Jones’ skillset and intangibles. Blankenship says Jones has a big season in store and plenty of football to play afterwards.
“Kaden is an awesome kid,” Blankenship said. “He is always so respectful and such a hard worker. He is also tough as nails on the football field and a pleasure to coach. He is really coming into this season with a lot of momentum, and we’re excited to see what he can do.”
Jones believes his coach has helped change the culture at Mustang and is proud to be a part of the program’s evolution. He thinks the team’s trip to the Class 6A-1 semifinals last season was just the beginning.
“That game really impacted us,” he said. “The team is really striving to make it past that, and the coaches have set the standard to make that happen. We’re the first players to play for them all four years so we feel like we’re the most prepared class yet.”
The bond amongst this year’s senior class is tight according to Jones. He says the group brought a completely different mindset to practice during the preseason and looks forward to putting it on display this fall.
“This year we’re like dogs,” he said. “There has been a lot more energy. Everyone is flying around and hitting… There has been a lot of big hits this summer. It has been just a whole different level.”
The Broncos are all about standards.
Jones sets the standard each game with the energy he brings. His teammates know where to find their hype man and he prides himself in setting that tone.
“Watch out for this whole defense,” Jones said, trying not to get too excited. “We’re really good, physical, and fast. It’s the same mentality we’ve had.
“We’re just bigger dogs now.”