Heading into the 2017 draft, Josh Jones thought Seattle was his destiny.
A standout safety at North Carolina State, Jones thought his physical style of play would make him a perfect fit in the Legion of Boom secondary. But while the Seahawks did select two safeties in that draft, both Tedric Thompson and Lano Hill were picked after the Packers took Jones late in the second round.
So instead of being teammates with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, Jones opened his NFL career on the opposite sideline from that all-time great safety duo as the Packers hosted the Seahawks in their 2017 season opener.
Things didn't go as planned for Jones or the Packers during his time there—he started 12 games in two seasons before being waived heading into the 2019 season—and it took him until December of last year, more than four and a half years after the 2017 draft, for him to find his way to Seattle, but the way a more mature Jones looks at things, this is how his journey was supposed to go.
"I was immature, I tough I had all the answers, and I wasn't as strong mentally as I am now," Jones said. "In life, you go through what you go through because you needed to know what you know. So if I hadn't gone through the things I went through, I wouldn't know what I know now. So it's a blessing in disguise."
After signing to Seattle's practice squad with the team needing depth late last season, Jones finished the season starting against the Cardinals, recording 10 tackles and a pass defensed in a win at Arizona. Jones enjoyed his brief stint in Seattle, and the feeling was mutual, leading to the Seahawks re-signing him this spring.
"I think I manifested my way to Seattle," he said. "I've always thought I would be in Seattle. If you look at the 2017 draft, I didn't see that I would be on any other team but Seattle. When they passed on me and Green Bay drafted me, I was just like 'Man, why?' I remember I was playing in 2018 against them, we come here and I'm like, 'This is where I'm supposed to be.' It's funny how life works. Things come full circle."
And while the Seahawks have two Pro-Bowl safeties at the top of their depth chart in Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, Jones has looked in training camp and the preseason like he is going to be more than just a backup this season. Throughout camp, Jones has found his way onto the field with the starting defense when the Seahawks deploy a three-safety look, and he has been one of the most obvious playmakers on defense over the past month.
"He's had a very, very obvious camp," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's made plays in the running game, in the passing game, he probably has more picks than anyone. He's playing all of the spots, we're able to put him all over the place. He's shown learning ability fine. He's almost a reborn football player to me. He had some issues over the years that things didn't work out, not serious issues, but stuff that it just didn't work in the places he was at. We came here and we gave him a clean slate and said 'Start all over. I don't care what happened before, we're starting all over. You have a fresh start here and let's go.' I think he was a second-round pick. He's really fast, he's 220 pounds, something like that, and he's made hits, he's made plays on the ball, he's fit in the running game, he's covered guys. So, he's been really important. It's been a big opportunity for him with Ryan Neal not out there, and he's taking advantage of that."
As Jones himself said, maturity, or lack thereof, was part of why things didn't work out, but there were also undisclosed-at-the time health issues at play, a thyroid condition that led to Jones eventually having his thyroid removed last year. All of those issues led to Jones' career getting off to a slow start, but he has no regrets about how things have played out, because those struggles helped him get to where he is now.
"I've been fortunate enough to go through enough things in life that has put me to where I am right now," he said. "I wouldn't want it any other way. I would have loved the easier path but the things that I have went through, I've learned a lot. I've gained a lot of wisdom. I met a lot of great people and I've learned a lot of ball in my times. It's been fortunate and unfortunate at the same time.
"The thyroid, that played a huge role. No one really knew what I was dealing with in Green Bay. I didn't really speak on that. I kind of just went through it. That played a huge role in everything, but I feel great. I got it removed a year ago, so body-wise, I'm connected in all areas."
When Jones arrived in Seattle, some of the earliest conversations he had with his new head coach were about him getting a fresh start with neither him nor the team taking into consideration all the factors that led to him bouncing around the league during his first five seasons.
"It's huge when the head coach says that, you can just take a deep breath and let it all go, leave the past in the past," he said. "And that's how I feel like everybody should approach things about life. I don't live in yesterday, man. Not to knock any other coaches I've been around in this league, but Pete, he's able to pull something out of certain guys, and the guys he does pull it out of, you see a whole different person. That's what he was able to do with me when I first got here in some of the early conversations we had."
But while Carroll and the Seahawks might have provided the opportunity, it was up to Jones to make the most of it, and he has done that and more since arriving late last season. And now, heading into the 2022 season, Jones looks like a lot more than a depth piece who could come in handy should injuries arise; he looks to be a real playmaker in a new-look Seattle defense.
"He has been a pleasant surprise," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "He has done really well. You can see all of the physical attributes and the talent, but to see him start to put it all together, find his place, and go earn a role here has been really great to see. To see his confidence level change and things like that—sometimes when you get free agents from other teams, there is a reason why they are a free agent. Sometimes, it's a bad fit and they need a change of scenery, you may end up getting the best version of them. That's really what I feel about Josh. He has done an outstanding job."
Take a look back at photos of Seahawks Legend Shaquem Griffin. Griffin played linebacker and contributed on special teams for three season in Seattle. He announced his retirement from the NFL on August 24, 2022.