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East Lansing — Evan Jones long ago could have put Michigan State football in his rearview mirror and found plenty of playing time elsewhere.

But that would have been the simple way — and that’s not how life works for Jones.

“It was definitely a hard time, but what isn’t in life?” Jones said. “It’s a grind every single day, to go out there and work at what you want to achieve.”

That hard time for Jones basically has been his entire Michigan State career, on in which he always has been just out of the rotation.

The West Lafayette, Ohio, native came to East Lansing in fall 2012 as a tight end, but by the next year had moved to defensive end. Of course, he was playing behind players like Shilique Calhoun, Marcus Rush and Lawrence Thomas.

So that’s where the grind came in — deciding to work every day with the hope playing time would soon come.

Now comes everything he’d been hoping to achieve.

Entering Saturday’s spring game, Jones is playing with the first team, along with junior Demetrius Cooper at the other end, and likely will earn a starting spot.

The holes left by Calhoun and Thomas are large, but Jones is more than willing.

“I’m really ready,” the fifth-year senior said. “That’s what I’ve been looking forward to since I stepped on campus, so really just have got to keep working, keep getting better every single day to fill those shoes.”

It’s not likely the 6-foot-5, 246-pound Jones is a household name to many Michigan State fans. In three previous seasons, he has eight tackles in 25 games.

But slowly, he started seeing the field last season to spell Calhoun and Thomas. And now given the chance to step forward in a wide-open position battle, Jones is proving his perseverance is paying off.

“What he’s done is he’s had an opportunity and he’s grabbing it,” co-defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said. “The confidence level he has is what I’m most excited to see. When the opportunity came it was whether he was going to question himself or whether he was gonna snag it and believe in himself. The confidence seems to be there and he’s attacking.”

Jones isn’t your average football player. He calls himself an artist, switching majors several times before settling on media and information with plans to design video games.

What he isn’t is a guy who shies away from what’s tough. He never thought about transferring when he wasn’t seeing the field, and that perseverance is helping now.

More importantly, it will help him long after is playing days are done.

“Some people just don’t have it in them,” Jones said. “If things get hard they just fold. But others fight through it and everything. It depends on the person. Someone that sticks through and works through those hard times — the process getting to the end result will make you a better person.”

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

Spring game

Kickoff: 3:06 p.m. Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

TV/radio: BTN/WJR

Admission: Free (gates open at 1:30 p.m.)

Parking: Free in lots 63E/W, 67, 39/40, 41; Ramps 2, 5 and 7; Lot 62W has been reserved for disabled parking. Lots open at 10 a.m.

Youth clinic: Children ages 8-12 (no registration required) from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

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