Former Mississippi State defensive tackle Chris Jones was invited to the NFL Draft green room. That means the league was confident Jones could be a first-round pick.
He was not. After sitting backstage all night Thursday, Jones was still without an NFL home.
For many prospects, this makes the draft moment anticlimactic. It can be embarrassing to walk across a stage with a diluted TV audience. But if you watched Chris Jones on Friday night, you probably thought he was the first overall pick. Jones shed tears on his walk up to the podium, as the No. 37 overall pick by the Chiefs, before giving Roger Goodell an extended bear hug.
— NFL (@NFL) April 29, 2016
"It caught me off guard," Jones said of crying. "I'm one of those manly guys. I don't crack. A lot of mixed emotions going on finally getting that call. It was a blessing. The tears just came."
The moment shifted from cute to inspirational for Jones and his current and future fans. During his press conference, the Houston, Mississippi, native was asked about how disappointing it was not to be drafted in the first round. His answer should be read to anyone who needs a boost:
"You know, I was thinking about that," he said. "When you get invited here, always expecting to in the first round. Everybody has their expectation. They want to go up on the stage before anybody. They want to be the guy to hug the commissioner first and they want to get to hug the commissioner. Everybody's path is different and everybody is directed this place for a reason. The draft has already been done. It was already in God's plan, and unfortunately, things don't work out as we always want them to work out. The NFL, it's not just a race, it's a marathon. So it's not about who gets drafted first. It's about what they do wherever they get drafted and I'm going to make damn sure that wherever I get drafted at, I'm going to leave my mark."
The Chiefs visited Jones, but they never invited him to Kansas City. He was shocked by the pick, but perhaps it was fitting that the Chiefs took him as he wore a red, black and white outfit, the same one he wore Thursday.
"You just don't understand that feeling," he told the media on being drafted. "That's a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately, it wasn't the first day, but I'll be damned, it was the second day. It's a blessing, man, it was a blessing. I told the commissioner, 'I didn't mean to hit him that hard.' He said, 'It's OK, man, it's OK.' But when you have that much excitement, you really don't feel it. You're just living for the moment."
Maybe Chris Jones did not win the popularity contest. But he is winning hearts. And his heart could be what separates him in the NFL from those who were selected ahead of him Thursday.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.