Southern Illinois cornerback P.J. Jules spent part of his summer researching the play and traits of NFL greats Ed Reed and Darrelle Revis. (Photo by SIUSalukis.com)
By Barry Bottino
As one of the nation’s top FCS cornerbacks, P.J. Jules spent plenty of time this off-season working on his skills.
“Playing football is what I do,” said the Southern Illinois junior, a native of Orlando. “I work on each and every thing that I’ve got to work on. I feel my strengths are my overall performance and my football IQ.”
Jules also spends time digging up whatever he can learn about some of the game’s all-time greats.
“I’m a researcher,” he said. “I get on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram. I watch it all. I was learning the history of football, watching different (legends) and learning their traits and characteristics, and what obstacles or bad habits they overcame.”
Over the summer, Jules spent hours studying University of Miami great and nine-time NFL Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed.
“He’s one of my favorite players,” Jules said. “He was an on-field quarterback (for the defense).”
When it comes to cornerbacks, Jules likes to study New York Jets great Darrelle Revis, whose coverage skills earned him the nickname “Revis Island.”
“He locked down Randy Moss,” Jules said. “He was the best. I try to study what he does and why he does certain things to play at a high level for long periods of time.”
Jules started 13 games last season and has drawn high praise from head coach Nick Hill, whose program has produced four recent NFL defensive backs – Jeremy Chinn, Ryan Neal, Madre Harper and Craig James.
Jules was named this month to the preseason All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team and HERO Sports’ Top 25 national list of top returning cornerbacks at No. 17. Last season, Jules had a team-high six pass breakups and ranked third with 74 tackles.
The recognition from coaches and media provides him with plenty of gratitude.
“I’m thankful for everything,” he said. “Everything is a blessing, and it keeps me going.”
The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Jules returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown last season against Kansas State, and he had a fumble recovery in a playoff win against South Dakota, showing off a habit for making big plays.
He is part of an experienced SIU secondary that will include plenty of contributors, including sophomore cornerback David Miller, who started 10 games a year ago and had three interceptions.
Junior cornerback D.J. Johnson (Purdue) became eligible late last season and started the season-ending playoff loss to national champion North Dakota State.
Junior Clayton Bush was a 13-game starter at free safety last fall and will get help from transfer safety Antonio Fletcher (Arkansas State) when the No. 9 Salukis open the season Sept. 3 at Incarnate Word.
“I’m impressed with our ball-hawking ability and the mindset that we come to every practice with,” Jules said of the secondary. “Once the ball starts rolling, we’re going to have some momentum.”