“I thought he was a football player.”
Manny Rodriguez isn’t the only person to have that first impression of the 6-foot-5 Myles Jones. The key difference between Rodriguez and most people: Rodriguez trains NFL players for a living.
Ultimate 48 Fitness in North Atlanta is a factory for college football players preparing for the combine. Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal and Houston Texans linebacker Davin Bellamy are two of many who turn to Ultimate 48 for their offseason training. This fall, the gym got a new member: Myles Jones.
When the NFL prospects who train at Ultimate 48 got a glimpse of Jones, their first impressions were similar to Rodriguez’s.
“All these guys think I’m a young guy coming out of college and getting ready for the [NFL] draft,” says Jones. When he tells them he’s a lacrosse player, they’re shocked.
“Oh wow, you play lacrosse?” they say. “That’s scary.”
That word -- “scary” -- kept popping up. “[Manny] asked me when training camp starts. I told him we have until late May and he said, ‘Woah, that’s gonna be scary season.’ That’s when I coined the phrase #ScarySZN,” said Jones, “and I really want to make that a big thing going forward for the season.”
#ScarySZN is the future for Jones. It’s a change in his workout plan, a different diet, and more than anything, it’s a mindset. It begins on social media -- almost all of Jones’s Instagram photos have the hashtag accompanied by a clown face emoji, the spookiest emoji Jones could find -- and will continue on national television with the Premier Lacrosse League this summer.
Jones is the first to admit that he has relied on his natural ability for most of his lacrosse career to date. He was determined to tweak his offseason training methods this year, though -- and after his first run at Ultimate 48, he knew he had made the right choice.
“I look in the mirror, and I see a different person every week,” says Jones. The transformation started in the weight room and continued in the kitchen. Jones is cutting out dairy, consuming leaner meats, and limiting himself to one “cheat meal” per week. Dietary changes are decreasing Jones’s recovery time between workouts. He’s getting regular massages and visiting a chiropractor to maximize his time with Rodriguez.
The results have been off the charts. Jones has trimmed down to 8 percent body fat. He is squatting close to 500 lbs. He recently put up 26 reps on the 225 lb bench press. For context, the average NFL offensive tackle puts up 25.26 per nflsavant.com and Jones puts up more reps than a handful of first-round picks from last year: Mike McGlinchey (24 reps), Bradley Chubb (23), and Marcus Davenport (22).
Speed work, explosiveness and flexibility are the focus of Jones’s training. Rodriguez says he’s moving “in and out of his breaks like a tight end or a wide receiver.” Jones is hyper-competitive during training. If he doesn’t finish top three in an exercise one day, then you can expect him to change that. “Our mindset,” says Rodriguez, “is never settle. I have to compete.”
Jones’s most recently read book -- Kobe Bryant’s The Mamba Mentality -- has played a big role in developing the #ScarySZN mindset, but being fueled by failure is nothing new for Jones. After being cut from Team USA and a first round playoff exit last summer, Jones is more motivated than ever. “[Team USA and Duke head coach John Danowski] knows I’m usually motivated by negative things: getting cut from a team, losing a game, saying I’m not as good as Player X, Y or Z.”
Last summer’s losses are pushing Jones to new heights -- both in the weight room and on the field. In a loaded PLL player pool that will be sorted into only six teams, Jones knows his role will shift based on the rest of the roster. He won’t be asked to initiate as often as he did as an upperclassman at Duke, so he’ll need to make the most of his opportunities.
“My overall understanding of the game has changed,” says Jones. “I understand how to use a defense’s movement against them, when to create for myself, when to create for other players, when to get out of the way, when to set a pick. Last season I didn’t dodge as much. I was more of a secondary dodger; I’d let my guy slough in or let my teammates take advantage of my guy not sloughing in.”
Prior to 2018, 57.1 percent of Jones’s career catch-and-shoot chances came on the extra-man. Last year, he flipped that number upside-down, taking 70.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts while even strength. Being able to remain involved while off-ball in six-on-six sets is a key area of growth. Every PLL team will have a player capable of creating offense; the best offenses will be those whose six pieces can serve as threats simultaneously, both on-ball and off-ball.
Jones’s ability to get his teammates involved has always been his strength. His physical dodging style demands early slides. Teammates have reaped the rewards of a rotating defense -- especially lefties, from Josh Dionne, Christian Walsh and Deemer Class at Duke to Brendan Mundorf, Joe Walters and Josh Byrne in the pros.
Left-handed teammates have finished a ridiculous 40.3 percent of the shots that Jones has set them up with during his pro career. There’s something natural about a righty-lefty Batman and Robin duo. When teams slide to Jones and leave a lefty open, the feeds are right in front of his face. Whether it’s this summer in the PLL or in 2022 with Team USA, Jones has a couple lefties he’d like to link up with.
“I love the way Will Manny plays the game,” says Jones. “He scores in different ways: backdoor, pass down pick down, popping to the wing, he’ll find ways to get goals himself. He’s a really smart player; obviously he’s a coach.”
“Matt Kavanagh, also -- he’s tough. I feel like I can throw it to him forward and he’ll catch it and finish in front. He’ll sacrifice his body for the better of the team. Those are two great lefties who I’d love to play with.”
Manny, Kavanagh, and the rest of the PLL player pool better hope they land on Jones’s roster, because #ScarySZN is approaching fast -- and it’s going to be terrifying for Jones’s opponents.