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JOE BIDDLE: Pred's draft pick a rare feel-good story

 

As our nation celebrates another birthday, feel-good stories are getting more and more difficult to find.

 

Even the sports world is rife with athletes being arrested at what seems an alarming rate.

 

Nationally, ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez faces murder charges and has been denied bail. Closer to home, four Vanderbilt football players have been suspended from school and its football team while six more athletes are being investigated by the Metro Sex Crimes unit.

 

Just when we needed a boost, the Predators got what some analysts are calling the steal of this year’s draft class with their No. 4 pick.

 

He is Seth Jones, an American defenseman predicted by many to be the top player in the draft.

 

Odds were long that Jones would still be there when the Predators’ name was called.

 

Jones was not a pick of need for the Predators. They were hoping to land a prolific goal scorer. But Jones left General Manager David Poile no choice. If he was disappointed, his body language denied it. He was, for Poile, downright giggly.

 

Given his background, Seth Jones would probably be the last person one would think would even choose hockey as his sport.

 

Jones’ father is Popeye Jones, a legendary basketball player at Murray State. At 6-foot-4, Seth could have played basketball.

 

When the family lived in Denver, Popeye was playing for the Nuggets. A young Seth was seated on the glass when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. As he watched the players hoist the Stanley Cup in celebration, Seth Jones found his sport.

 

The family later moved to Dallas, which has a strong junior hockey program. The middle son of three boys, hockey became a family affair. With Popeye on the road so much of the time, his wife Ann became the designated driver, the person who sat in frigid rinks for hours and critiqued their games.

 

Seth is quick to point out that his mother was his driving force. Now divorced, Ann was the first one Seth hugged after his two brothers when Poile called Seth’s name. Their hug made it easy to see how much she means to him.

 

So, why the Predators? Sure, Poile had Jones on top of his draft board, but he never dreamed Jones would be there when the Predators picked.

Even when the Avalanche took Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon, Poile had to sweat it out. With his Colorado ties, Jones seemed to be a lock. But their priority was to secure a possible franchise center. They got their man in MacKinnon.

 

Florida and Tampa Bay followed. Both of them were sorely in need of forwards. The Panthers jumped on Aleksander Barkov at the last minute and the Lightning followed by taking Jonathan Drouin.

 

Although the Jones pick now gives the Predators arguably the strongest defense in franchise history, there remains a glaring weakness with their inability to put points on the board.

 

By all accounts Seth Jones is humble, but a competitive fire burns inside. Like any teenager, Jones can’t wait to show the three teams that passed on him just what they missed.

 

“I have a competitive nature and I get that from my parents,” Jones said. “You definitely want to prove them wrong and you definitely want to show them why they should have picked you. That’s not my only goal, but it’s definitely on my list.”

 

Stay tuned.

 

Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

 


Posted on: 7/3/2013

 
 

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