Welcome to the Danger Zone: Christian Jones leads rejuvenated offensive line

Jordan Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor

According to super senior right tackle Christian Jones, there is something special about this year’s offensive line.

It’s not because in 2022 the line has only allowed three quarterback hits compared to last season’s seven through three games, or because two of the five starters, left tackle Kelvin Banks and right guard Cole Hutson, are true freshmen. 

It’s because the starting five have call signs.

Last Friday, the offensive line went to watch “Top Gun: Maverick” together. Inspired by iconic call signs like “Maverick,” “Iceman” and “Goose,” the line decided that they needed callsigns too.

Banks is “Bank Roll,” sophomore Hayden Connor is “Cornbread,” sophomore Jeff Majors is “Shortstack,” Hutson is “Sprinkles” and Jones is “Hitman.” Each player developed his own call sign, but had to get it approved by the group. 

Jones said that their new tradition is a testament to the chemistry the offensive line has this season. The callsigns further reinforce their cohesion as a unit, ultimately making them a revitalized position group with a renewed energy in 2022. 

“That’s just the love of our team. This locker room is completely different since I’ve been here,” Jones said. “Top-down (and) all the way through, just the love that we have is what brought us together.”

Despite fellow super senior right guard Junior Angilau tearing his ACL during fall training camp, the morale within the trenches has never been higher. Jones has stepped up as a leader during the offseason, with many younger linemen looking up to him.

As a leader on the offensive line and in the locker room, Jones models himself after former Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay. According to Jones, Duvernay led by example. 

During Jones’ first season, he often ventured over to Duvernay’s locker asking for advice on daily routines. 

“I remember my freshman year looking up to him like, ‘Man, I want to be just like him,’” Jones said. “He was always available.”

Going into his fifth year with the program, Jones sought to make himself available too. He strives to lead by example and wants to be approachable to any player.

“I’m always around. I’m always open. Everyone has my phone number,” Jones said. “It’s really through actions where I’m trying to lead.”

Although Jones is noted as the moral leader of Texas’ young offensive line, he notes that Angilau is still the most bought-in player on the team, even from the sidelines. Angilau led last Saturday’s “Texas Fight” song after the win over UTSA.

As his roommate, Jones said that Angilau’s season-ending injury broke both of them. During the summer, the duo talked extensively about what they wanted to do in 2022 and how much hard work they put in. Now, Jones feels that he owes it to his friend to do everything right: eating healthy, going to bed early and giving his best every single day.

“I know he’d do anything just to have one more rep in practice,” Jones said. 

Jones’ hard work has paid off. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has rarely brought up the front five during his opening statements during postgame interviews, only speaking on the line when directly asked about it.

“As a coach, (if) I’m not mentioning offensive linemen, that’s a good thing,” Sarkisian said. “When they’re kind of unassuming, that means they’re just doing their job.”

Jones is having the most fun he’s had in his career. The locker room is exuberant and lively, and he feels comfortable in his role as an upperclassmen leader.

“I’m overly confident about what I’m doing,” Jones said. “No second-guessing — just seeing the play, lineup and try my best. There’s been a big improvement since I’ve been here.”