GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Datone Jones didn't need a debriefing. The former UCLA defensive end already knew all about the Green Bay Packers and the guy who, years ago, played his position best.
Talk about a good way to introduce himself to his new fan base. Jones brought up Reggie White unprompted in describing his relentless style of play.
The Packers selected Jones with the 26th pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, addressing one of their positions in greatest need of an upgrade with a 6-foot-4, 280-pound player who can move all over the line and has a penchant for making big plays behind it.
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson, left, president Mark Murphy and head coach Mike McCarthy watch a broadcast of NFL football draft on televisions in the team’s draft room at Lambeau Field Thursday.
Jones had 19 tackles for loss and 6 1/2 sacks for UCLA in a breakout season in 2012 as a fifth-year senior. With an athletic build and a basketball background, the lifelong Los Angeles native didn't start playing football until his sophomore season at Compton High School. He sat out the 2010 season because of a broken foot but bounced back from the injury. He even received UCLA's Captain Don Brown Award for the team's most improved player.
On a conference call with reporters, Jones said he actually rooted for the Packers (plus the New York Giants) growing up. He admired White, the late Pro Football Hall of Fame pass rusher, from afar.
"Reggie White played one way: with maniacal effort and just with complete hunger, no matter who he lined up against," said Jones, who described the excitement he felt when he saw his name next to the Packers on his TV screen: "I almost fainted, man. This is like a dream come true."
Jones has a combination of quickness and strength that should give Green Bay a valuable run-stopper and pass-rusher up front, an area of weakness exposed down the stretch last season. General manager Ted Thompson praised the versatility of Jones, who will wear No. 95. Jones was the fourth defensive end taken, thanks in part to a splurge on offensive linemen around the league, and enticing enough to steer Thompson away from his past penchant for trading down for more middle-round picks.
"We were pretty surprised the opportunity was there," Thompson said.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers used Twitter to welcome Jones to Wisconsin shortly after the pick was made.
"Bring your warmest jacket," Rodgers tweeted. "Winter is coming."
The Packers entered this draft, the ninth under Thompson, with eight picks. They have the 55th and 88th overall selections in the second and third rounds on Friday night.