Syracuse, Why Not Us???

Syracuse Athletics

Playing for this program these last four years … I’ve been through some tough times. 

And I think we’ve all been through enough of those times — myself, our team, our fans — that I don’t really need to go into details. Everyone knows: 5–7 in 2019, 1–10 in 2020, 5–7 in 2021. Those memories are fresh, man. You don’t need to remind us. We know where we’ve been.

But I will say one thing about it.

I don’t see this as an underdog story, or like it’s crazy that we made it from 1–10 two years ago to 6–0 now. Nah. For me?? 1–10 helped build 6–0. Those times helped build these times. We got through that to GET to this.

And if you’re not part of the Syracuse family and you’re reading this, you might be laughing and thinking I’m delusional with that talk. But for us, it’s the truth. We always said that we could get ranked this high … we’ve been saying it since my freshman year. We always said that we could win these types of games, against these types of teams. We always said that Syracuse football could be great. Not good — great.

And it’s funny because, as much as no one other than ourselves probably believed it back then, I swear it’s like no one else even believes it now. Even as we’re doing it, and people are seeing it, it’s like they’re not believing what they’re seeing. Every week, everyone just expects us to fall back. “Yeah, they’re a nice story … but they won’t keep playing like this.” 

Honestly? They’re right in a way. We probably won’t keep playing “like this” — because I think we’re about to start playing better. If you look back at some of our games, what stands out to me is that we haven’t even played our best football yet. We still have this whole other level we can reach. And if people want to laugh at that thought? O.K., go ahead. We just don’t care. No one but our Syracuse family could know the belief that we have. If you haven’t gone 1–10, you can’t understand this hunger.

Syracuse Athletics

This team we’ve got, it’s RELENTLESS.

We’ve had games where we’ve been down — y’all have seen them. But we’ve always kept our composure, and we’ve never felt like we were out of it. A huge part of that is just the faith we have in our offense to go out and make plays. Trust me, I have to go against those dudes every day in practice, so I know how fast they are and how many playmakers we have on that side of the ball. It’s fun as hell watching them, and it’s even more fun knowing that not a lot of teams have an answer to stop them.

Then you’ve got our defense, and man … listen. I’ll just say this. With the defensive side, it’s all about having a mentality. You know what I mean? That’s what it comes down to for us. We’re the MOB. When we’re out there, it’s a MOB mentality, plain and simple. It’s hard hitters. It’s controlled chaos. We’re always trying to create that chaos, because we know how much we thrive in it. And we know how much other teams aren’t ready for it.

And then I feel like the other big piece of this puzzle, it’s our fans. Our school. Our people. Our Dome. It’s everything and everyone that makes Syracuse SYRACUSE. Our fans, they’re almost like their own type of mob. They’re creating that chaos just like we are, you know?? The Dome will be that kind of loud where you’re sitting on the bench and you can’t hear the person next to you talking. Ha. It’s a rare energy — and we feed off of it.

But what I also love is how that energy is coming through even outside the Dome. Even in just these smaller ways. Like I went to get a smoothie the other day, and some fans were stopping me as I was doing it — so I was like, What’s up? And they were just like, We’re excited for the game on Saturday. We can’t wait. We HAVE TO keep this going. And that’s what makes this special for me, on top of everything. It’s like … we feel how much this means for our whole community. We’re getting people excited about football, but we’re also just getting people excited about Syracuse in general.

Syracuse Athletics

Playing in the NFL is my dream, and I’ve worked my whole life for that opportunity. So I won’t lie, it was a very tough decision last spring — should I enter the draft, or run it back at Cuse for another year. And ultimately my decision came down to two things. One, my faith in God’s plan, and just trusting God’s timing. And, two, knowing how much further we could go still as a team and as a program. It felt like we had unfinished business.

But while I already knew that I was right to come back … it’s like there’s knowing, and there’s knowing. There’s always one moment that really cements why you did something.

For me that moment came over the summer. We were in off-season workouts, and that day we were running stadiums in the Dome. Conditioning is always hard, and summer makes it that much harder. But running stadiums in the Dome??? O.K., now that’s a different type of hard. Some of us, including me, had already finished, and once that happens we go and encourage the rest of the team while they grind. Pretty soon everyone else is finished, or almost — because one of our freshmen players is still out there, and he got one rep to go. And he’s trying, but that last rep is hard as hell, especially when it’s just you by yourself.

And I don’t know why but something just clicked for me right then — and I was like, Oh yeah, THIS is why I’m back. This moment, right here. And I go up to him and say, “Alright, let’s go. I’ll run this last one with you.”

And I start running, and he starts running, and we’re doing it together … and then I start looking around and I see all the other captains joining in, and now they’re doing another rep with us. Then the whole defense starts running. Then the offense joins in. And before I know it we’ve got the entire team doing this extra rep.

After we finished, one of the coaches took me aside and was like, “Last time I saw something like that? I was playing on an 11–0 team.” Real talk. That’s when I knew I’d made the right decision, for sure. It’s when I knew this group could do big things.

And it doesn’t get much bigger than Saturday.

Syracuse Athletics

All I can say about Clemson is: We’re ready, man. Everyone in this locker room is prepared, and everyone in this locker room been prepared. We know we’re going to have to play our best football, and we know what it’s going to take for us to get there. That whole other level I was telling you we can reach?? It’s time for us to go reach it. That unfinished business I was talking about?? It’s time for us to go handle it.

And that’s why I wanted to take a quick minute before Saturday and write something. I guess I really just wanted to say two main things. 

First is THANK YOU to our Syracuse family — everyone who’s stood by us and supported us over these years.

And then, second, it’s something that I wanted to tell our team: We put in a lot of pain to get to this moment, y’all. We took a lot of L’s. We went through a lot of tough times. But none of that matters now. Let everyone doubt us … let them keep talking. All I’m focused on is: WHY NOT US???  Why can’t WE be the group that keeps finding a way???

I’ll see y’all Saturday. GO ORANGE!!!!!

—Mikel Jones