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Unheralded Jones receives much-deserved acclaim from Welsh

Sitting on the brick wall surrounding the interior of Scott Stadium, I watched George Welsh's post-game press conference.

I nearly took a great fall.

After witnessing Virginia's win over Wake, I expected the usual we-need-to-do-better jargon from Welsh. And much of the media session was just that. But then, a few words tumbled from Welsh's mouth that, frankly, were quite surprising.

Not so much for the content, but because George Welsh was the speaker. The coach said the following about tailback Thomas Jones: "He's awfully good. There isn't anybody better in the country. There can't be."

I applauded. Unabashedly, I clapped and nearly stood up right there on the wall. The reason for such a response when the game was over, when no one could hear, when Thomas Jones was nowhere in sight, is quite simple. Welsh is absolutely right.

On the touchdown front, Jones is tied for ninth (among all players) in the nation with five. Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, a Heisman candidate, only has five. Tennessee's Jamaal Lewis has scored five.

What about Florida State wideout and Heisman hopeful Peter Warrick? He has three touchdowns so far. So does Virginia wide receiver Kevin Coffey.

But step away from the numbers for a moment. As a player, Jones brings it all to the table.

"He's catching the ball, he's blocking," Welsh said in Monday's weekly press conference. "He's making spectacular runs, he's making guys miss, he's running with some power."

Above all else, however, is Jones' touchdown celebration, or to be more accurate, touchdown dedication. Drop the ball, take a knee, head down and give thanks.

No flash. No dance. No spike. No pose. Instead it is a quiet and humble finish to another spectacular run - just like the man.

In an interview with The Roanoke Times, Jones said, "I want to go out and play well, whether people notice or not."

The sad part is that few national media members have noticed. When Heisman hopeful talk surfaces, Jones is never mentioned. ESPN's Web site has four tailbacks among its top 10 Heisman candidates - and Jones is not one of them.

Dayne has 524 rushing yards and five touchdowns; Lewis has 249 rushing yards and five touchdowns in two games; Alabama's Shaun Alexander has 449 rushing yards and nine touchdowns (he also returns kickoffs).

Jones' numbers are certainly comparable with 410 yards and five TDs. Still, he is not among the Heisman hopefuls. So it must be that the Cavaliers as a team have already lost a game. But, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama and Miami of Ohio have all lost one game as well.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Thomas Jones should outright, without a doubt, no questions asked, win the Heisman trophy. I'm simply saying that Thomas Jones has the numbers, the personality and the ability to be considered a legitimate candidate.

"Maybe there's a couple of guys [who are] just as good," Welsh said in Monday's press conference.

Just as good. Not better.