EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today signed center Brett Jones, one of the Canadian Football League's most decorated offensive linemen.
The team also announced it has waived running back David Wilson, the 2012 first-round draft choice whose career ended prematurely because of a neck injury.
Jones, 6-2 and 315 pounds, played the last two seasons for the Calgary Stampeders. In 2013, he won the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award. Jones also won the Jackie Parker Trophy, which is awarded annually to the Most Outstanding Rookie in the West Division.
Last year, he won the league's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award.
"It has always been a goal and a dream of mine to play in the NFL," Jones said today after signing his contract at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. "This is the first step, and I look forward to taking many more.
"When I was in university in Canada, my goal was always to try to play in the NFL. As a kid growing up playing games like Madden, it definitely was an influence. Some of the players on my team (in the video game) that I played with, they play in the NFL now. I always thought that I wanted to earn a chance."
He did with his outstanding play in the CFL. Jones was the Stampeders' second-round choice (16th overall selection) in the 2013 Canadian League draft after playing for the Regina Rams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the highest level of amateur play of Canadian football.
In 2014, the Stampeders were 15-3 in the regular season and won the Grey Cup, the CFL's championship game, with a 20-16 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
"It was the coolest experience," Jones said. "Winning the Grey Cup is something surreal. (It) was something (my team) worked very hard for and I wish them all the best this year as they go for it."
Calgary's head coach is John Hufnagel, who was the Giants' offensive coordinator from 2004-06.
With the signing of OL Brett Jones, take a look at players who spent time in the CFL
"Huf is a great guy," Jones said. "He is in support of what I am doing and he has given me great advice along the way. I am really thankful he took a chance on me out of college. I owe a lot to him."
Last season, Jones started all 20 games at center. In addition to being named the league's Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, he was voted a West Division all-star, CFL all-star and CFLPA all-star.
As a rookie in 2013, Jones started all 18 regular-season games – 17 at center and one at left guard – plus the Western Final at center. He was named a West Division all-star, as well as the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie.
Jones said he will have to adjust to the NFL – not just the skill of the defensive linemen, but their proximity to the offensive front.
"I am coming from the Canadian style, where they are one yard off the ball," he said. "I know that there is going to be a learning curve to that. I went right from the CIS to the CFL, and it is a big difference from college to pro. Hopefully my pro experience will help me, but I understand there is going to be a learning curve and I look forward to that."
Jones played four seasons for the University of Regina. In 2012, he was a finalist for the J.P. Metras Trophy (which goes to the top lineman in CIS), was named a first-team Canada West and CIS all-star and was Regina's male athlete of the year. Jones was also a Canada West and CIS first-team all-star in 2011. In 2011 and 2012, he was named Canada West's top student-athlete and is a three-time member of the Canadian all-academic team. Jones played in the 2012 East-West Bowl.
Jones is the fourth University of Regina alumnus currently on an NFL roster, joining defensive linemen Akiem Hicks (New Orleans Saints) and Stefan Charles (Buffalo Bills) and punter Jon Ryan (Seattle Seahawks). Another former Ram, long-snapper Jorgen Hus, has tried out with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jones, 23, was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. He played high school football at Weyburn Comprehensive and won 3A-division city championships in both 2007 and 2008. Jones was named the South Division's outstanding offensive lineman at the 2009 Senior Bowl.
Football wasn't his only sport. Jones also participated in Canada's national pastime.
"I played hockey my whole life, too," he said. "I would play hockey in the winter and football in the fall and baseball in the summer. I was playing sports all the time. My dad said it was the best way to stay out of trouble."
And while today's visit was only Jones' second to the northeast, Jones has visited several states.
"We lived only an hour away from the border, so we would go to North Dakota and Minnesota, Wyoming and Montana," he said. "We have been all throughout the northern states and I have been to Florida and California."
Now he could get a chance to see much more of the country as a member of the Giants.
- Wilson was the 32nd overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft. He suffered a neck injury in the fifth game of his second NFL season and was placed on injured reserve a month later. Wilson participated in training camp last year but was forced to leave a July 29 practice after suffering a burner, which caused numbness in his hands and lower extremities. On Aug. 4, the Giants announced that team physician Dr. Russell Warren and Dr. Frank Cammisa, chief of spine services at the Hospital for Special Surgery, had advised Wilson that he should no longer play football. Wilson was soon placed on injured reserve, his pro career ended at age 23 after just 21 games.
But in his brief time with the Giants, Wilson left an indelible impression. As a rookie in 2012, he set a Giants record with 1,533 kickoff return yards, easily breaking the former mark of 1,291, set by Domenik Hixon in 2009. Wilson accounted for a Giants-record 327 all-purpose yards (227 on kickoff returns, 100 rushing) in a victory over New Orleans on Dec. 9, a performance that earned him the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award. Wilson's 1,925 all-purpose yards for the season were a Giants rookie record.
Wilson started six games, including four in 2013. He finished with 115 carries for 504 yards (4.4-yard avg.) and five touchdowns, six receptions for 42 yards and a score, and 66 kickoff returns for 1,755 yards (26.6-yard avg.) and a touchdown. Wilson's 1,755 kickoff return yards place him sixth in Giants history, just 13 yards behind Rocky Thompson.