The Jets signed wide receiver Dwight Jones, a 2012 graduate of North Carolina, to the practice squad on December 18. Jones was a highly productive receiver at North Carolina, catching a combined total of 147 passes for 2142 yards and 16 TDs over his final two years in college and earning 2nd team All ACC honors his senior year.
Early in his senior year of 2012 Jones was projected in some circles as one of the top four or five wide receivers in the draft and a possible first or second round selection. At 6' 3", 230 pounds, Jones has good size and strength and is reported to have great hands, rarely dropping the ball, with excellent speed and fluidity for a man his size. On the negative side he is reported to struggle against press coverage. He is also reportedly very raw in his route running, as North Carolina rarely asked him to run anything more than an extremely rudimentary route tree.
Jones' draft stock dropped in 2012 after a series of personal and performance issues. His son, Deizean, was born in September 2011, Jones' senior year at North Carolina, with lung, heart and brain disorders. Deizean died last June, three months before his second birthday. Jones' son's health was a constant distraction weighing on him.
Jones was banned from UNC's pro day for his involvement in a New Year's Eve party in his hometown of Burlington, N.C. In December 2012, UNC declared Jones ineligible for the Independence Bowl for allowing his name and photo to be used for the party. Fliers for the party, dubbed the "1st Annual Dwight Jones New Years Birthday Celebration," featured $20 bills and promised free admission to the "first 24 ladies" through the door and "24 free shots every hour on the hour." UNC reinstated Jones for the Independence Bowl after Jones agreed with UNC and the NCAA that Jones would cancel the party. Jones played in the game, catching six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. But after the game, the flier was re-posted on Jones' Facebook page and the party was held as planned. Jones said he did not attend the party, but was out with friends celebrating his birthday. "My collegiate career was over. I didn't break any rules when I was in school," he said. "I never got in any trouble with arrests or suspensions."
According to NFL Network's Mike Mayock, position coaches at the Combine "jumped all over" Jones in on-field drills for disobeying instructions and a lack of hustle. Jones apparently ran a bad route at one point in drills and didn't hustle to the other area of the field, where the quarterback placed his pass. Jones also did not perform well at the Senior Bowl, displaying poorly run routes and a failure to gain separation from DBs.
All of these issues combined to drop his draft stock to a projected 6th round pick in 2012, but when the draft was over, Jones' name had not been called. Jones signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent but walked away in May 2012 to care for his dying son.
After his workout for the New York Jets, Jones reportedly walked into a bathroom at the team's facility, dropped to his knees and thanked God for another chance to fulfill his NFL dream.
Some people thought he quit the Texans because he didn't like football. That wasn't the case.
"I wasn't mentally prepared to play football," Jones said Wednesday after his first practice.
"My son died and I feel like a part of me is gone, but it makes me stronger," he said. "It makes me want to do it for him."