Named the Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season, Greg Jones also finished last season as the league's top defender and earned first-team All-America.

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CHICAGO - As a grade schooler in Cincinnati, Michigan State senior middle linebacker Greg Jones might have been known as much for playing the flute and the trumpet as much as playing football.


"Football was just little league to me,'' he said. "It's something I liked to do. (Music) was something I got into. I played flute for two years, then moved to trumpet.''


He stuck with the trumpet through sophomore year at Archbishop Moeller High School, then became more serious about football and basketball. Now with Jones getting busier with football, the dust is covering that trumpet.


"I haven't touched it, like, forever,'' he said. Quarterbacks and running backs in the Big Ten would be so lucky.


Named the Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season, Jones also finished last season as the league's top defender and earned first-team All-America.


Everyone knows the name Terrelle Pryor, the league's preseason offensive player of the year for the second straight season and the Ohio State quarterback who wants to play in the BCS title game in January.


But most teams, including the Buckeyes, didn't show interest in Jones, he said, and now he's a star hidden on a mid-pack team. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Jones led the Big Ten and ranked third nationally with 154 tackles. He's added close to 10 pounds from last season, and the Spartans will use a 3-4 defense to showcase a stable of linebackers.


The best is Jones, who turned down a chance to jump to the NFL to improve his stock and continue working toward a college degree.


"It was a family decision,'' he said. "I thought where I wanted to be when everything is said and done. Having my degree and having confidence that I have a degree and can do what I want in life, I feel great about my decision. The NFL only lasts so long.''


Projected as a third-round pick, Jones felt he could move up or down two rounds, so it was a bit of a gamble not worth taking.


"Those guys are tough to impress,'' said Jones, who bounced around earlier in his career.


Jones moved between defensive end and linebacker at Moeller, and he was ranked No. 16 by Rivals among the senior class in Ohio in 2007. Ohio State took eight of the state's top 13, and Jones initially committed to Minnesota. When Minnesota fired coach Glen Mason, Jones instead chose to join coach Mark Dantonio's first recruiting class at Michigan State.


Jones began his career as an outside linebacker at Michigan State, then moved to the middle during his sophomore season.


"When you look at our football team, you have to look at our defense because it starts with Greg Jones,'' Dantonio said. "I think not only from a physical standpoint but from a psychological standpoint, it talks about his maturity as a person and talks about our overall program, in terms of where we're at as a football program that he would decide to come back.


"He has a great physical presence on the field and certainly through the middle of our defense gives us a guy who can make plays throughout our entire defense and all over the field.''


That trumpet is getting lonely, because Jones has another outlet to show his creativity.


"Being creative comes from me just watching the NFL,'' he said. "I'm always trying to be different, have that new move.''


Michigan State loves his last move, the one where he decided to stay for his senior season.


John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com.