This time last year Jarvis Jones was like this year's rookies, his head spinning as he was taking part in his first Steelers offseason program. Information was flying at the team's 2013 first-round draft pick faster than he could take it all in.
"As a rookie that is the toughest time you are going to have to endure in the NFL," said Jones. "You go from college, to the combine to preparing for the draft, to the pro day, to being here. You never get a break. Then you come here and get this big playbook. The game is so different from college to the NFL. The NFL is so much more challenging in the mental stage of it. People sit in the stands and see what they want and say things. But it's much more mental than it looks. That is the biggest phase."
View photos of Jarvis Jones's playing days as a University of Georgia Bulldog and as a Pittsburgh Steeler. (College photos courtesy of UGA Sports Communications)
A year later, things have changed. Jones has experience under his belt. He understands what is expected of him. And most importantly, he understands the defense.
"It's a blessing to be where I am today, a part of this organization," said Jones. "I had a chance to play with a lot of great players last year and learn from those guys. Now I am settled in. Last year was a lot of frustration, confusion, trying to learn and play, while settling in to a new defense and ways of coaching.
"Now I am comfortable with what is going on, I know my surroundings better and I know what to expect."
It wasn't just the mental aspect that Jones had to adjust to, but also the physical demands that come with playing in the NFL. He quickly learned that staying in shape, eating healthy and making the right choices are just as important as knowing what to do on the field.
"The biggest thing about playing is taking care of your body, eating right, getting the proper rest," said Jones. "People see us play on Sunday, but this is working seven days a week getting your body right. Every day you had to do something to get your body right or your mind prepared.
"This is a physical game and it's a mentally challenging game as well, playing through pain and injuries. It's a challenge physically and mentally. You just have to keep chopping wood. That is why we are here. It's a blessing."