SPRINGDALE - Former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones has faced plenty of bad news since July.
From a felony drug charge, an NFL suspension and fine, and even jail time, Jones has been in the national headlines plenty.
But Jones, a former first-round draft pick who violated terms of a court-mandated drug program in February, just hopes he faces an ideal situation later this month when NFL teams start their training camps.
"Any team that wants to sign me would be good for me," Jones said.
Jones was at Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium on the campus of Springdale High School on Wednesday, where he spent four hours teaching football fundamentals to about 50 kids at a camp for sixth and seventh graders. On the professional football field, Jones hasn't had much good news recently.
The Jacksonville Jaguars cut the quarterback-turnedreceiver March 16 after an up-and-down year in his personal life, which hit a low in July after an arrest for cocaine possession in Fayetteville. Jones averted possible jail time and was allowed to enter the Washington County drug court program, but was sent to jail for five days in March when he admitted to drinking alcohol during a golf trip. The consumption of alcohol was a violation of terms set in the court-mandated drug program.
Since his release by the Jaguars, Jones has been bouncing back and forth between training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and relaxing in Northwest Arkansas. Jones said he feels "great and ready to go" if an NFL team calls and shows interest in signing him.
Jones, who caught 65 passes for 761 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games last season, will reportedly be fined $50,000 by the NFL upon his return to a team because of the drug court violation. The wide receiver was suspended for the final three games of the 2008 season because of his arrest for cocaine possession, but will face no further suspensions after violating his court-mandated drug program.
"There's a lot of different situations to be in," Jones said. "... You want to go somewhere you're wanted. You want to go somewhere, where you're going to get to play. That's what I want to do - just to help the team win."
Asked if he or agent Dave Butz would appeal the $50,000 fine, Jones said: "That situation will take care of itself."
Jones stood alongside former Razorback football stars Marcus Harrison, Tony Bua, Joe Dean Davenport and former UA head coach Ken Hatfield at the youth camp Wednesday organized by Steve Conley of SMART Sports.
"Positive" was a word used in abundance by those participating and helming the event.
"The biggest thing you hope for is that, when the day is over, you see some smiles on the faces and they go home and say, 'It was a good day,'" said Hatfield, who coached Arkansas from 1984-89 and starred as a defensive back and punt returner from 1962-64, leading the NCAA in the category twice.
Hatfield was a part of a diverse group of former Razorbacks at the event, which rotated campers in seven workstations on the field.
"It's great to mix the old with the new," Conley said. "That's something that we need - for the former Razorbacks to come back here and give back to the community."
Many eyes were on the 6-foot-6 Jones. Harrison, who is battling for a starting spot at defensive tackle with the Chicago Bears, chatted with his former Razorback teammate before the event.
"Me and Matt got into some trouble but, through time, we've been able to put that behind us," Harrison said.
Harrison was arrested in August 2007, just days before his senior season at the UA, when police said they found an Ecstasy pill and two cigars containing marijuana in his vehicle. He was required Wednesday to attend the youth camp in Springdale because of his participation in the Washington County drug court program.
"... I'm able to man up and say, 'Yes, I made a mistake.' That's one thing I want to point out to the kids - just because you make one mistake in life, don't let that get you down," Harrison said. "You've got to keep pushing forward and be positive about the situation. Put it behind you but never forget what happened to you."
As for Jones, Hatfield conversed with Arkansas' alltime leading rushing quarterback briefly before the camp Wednesday.
"I'm sure he'll get picked up by somebody in the NFL this year," Hatfield said. "He'll make a great contribution."
Jones will find out soon enough. Until then, it's more training and waiting by the phone.
"Going through life, you're going to make mistakes and it's how you learn from them," Jones said. "I have the best parents in the world. ... There's been some tough times but it's been easy. My family is awesome. They've always been around, so it's good to be around these kids.
"Maybe a lot of these kids don't have both parents at the house and some of the things I've been fortunate enough to be blessed with. So you just try to give some time back to them and watch the smiles on their faces."