When Jones was a senior, he wasn't offered a single football scholarship. He decided to attend Northeastern in Boston for its business program, and he squeezed lacrosse and the Huskies' I-AA football program around the demands of his marketing major and the various accounting and sales jobs he had each year.
In 1984 the Raiders shocked 27 other scouting departments by drafting Jones in the second round. "Sean was the worst football player I had ever seen when he showed up in camp," says Howie Long, who is now one of Jones's closest friends as well as a client. "He couldn't even get in a stance."
"I figured sooner or later they would figure out that I couldn't play," says Jones, 11 years after his first training camp. "The reason I don't pay off the rest of the balance on my student loans is because the debt is a constant reminder of what it took to get here."
To get to his current level of play took hard work and long hours of studying game films. The time spent with a remote control—"analyzing the games," says Jones, "just as I analyze a balance sheet"—is how he became one of the best linemen in the league. Still, over the years he has given people plenty of reason to question his work ethic and his commitment to the game. In Houston, where he played from 1988 through 1993, Jones missed three training camps because of contract disputes and because, he admits, "I just don't like the preseason."
"If practice is at 1:30, Scan gets there at 1:29," says Packer defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. Jones's teammates know to start stretching when number 96 arrives. Counters Jones, "It" they want me to be at practice at 1:15 instead of 1:29, they should say that practice begins at 1:15."
During drills Jones is as mobile as a blocking sled and as lazy as a summer afternoon. He leaves the body crunching to others. Jones contends that he simply prepares differently for games: "I do my homework in the film room."
"Sean gives less than a damn every day but Sunday," says center Jamie Dukes.
Jones says that as he shopped around for teams last spring, he was criticized by those who thought he had too many projects outside the game. But he refused to be apologetic. "My strength in this game is that I'm always prepared to play on Sunday," says Jones. "I love being a stockbroker and a football player. I'm committed to both."
He is also committed to doing what he believes is the right thing to do. In 1987 Jones, then only 24, was an outspoken player representative during the midseason strike. At the end of that season the Raiders traded him to Houston. There, Jones quarreled publicly with owner Bud Adams. He may not have actually called Adams a liar, but he did say that he was careless with the truth, charging that Adams reneged on verbal agreements with players when it came time to sign a contract. Jones grew so frustrated with his own contract situation during the summer of 1992 that he announced his retirement.
"I was supposed to make $750,000 that year, but I didn't care," says Jones. "I was just fed up." But Jones went back to the team in the second week of the season, after, he says, Adams called to make peace.