If any Eagle can truly appreciate Super Bowl run, it’s punter Donnie Jones

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia
NBC Sports Philadelphia

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Only 15 current NFL players have been at this longer than Donnie Jones, who was a rookie in 2004 with the Seahawks back in the era of Shaun Alexander, Trent Dilfer and, yes, Jerry Rice.

And what did he have to show for his first 13 years in the NFL? More than 1,000 punts, about 27 miles of punt yardage and one lonely playoff win over Marvin Lewis and the Bengals back in 2012 with the Texans.

If anybody can really appreciate this Super Bowl run, it's the 37-year-old Jones, the 12th-oldest player in the NFL and soon to be the fourth-oldest punter in Super Bowl history.

"I've been in this league a long time and in my 14th year to have an opportunity to play for a world championship, it means everything," Jones said.

"I look back at the sacrifices I've made, different cities I've lived in, moving my wife and kids around, countless hours of preparation and practice, and finally it's all paying off. I couldn't be happier about the opportunity."

This is only the fourth time in Jones' 14 seasons he's even made the playoffs. The Seahawks lost a wild-card game to the Rams his rookie year, the Texans beat the Bengals in 2012 before losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro, and in 2013 he was on the Eagles team that lost to the Saints at the Linc.

"The closest I've ever been to a Super Bowl was 2012," Jones said. "We were 11-1, and we only needed to win two out of our last four to get a bye and home-field (advantage), but we only won one. So we went up to New England (in the conference semifinals), and they beat us."

Jones has spent most of his career punting very well for really bad football teams.

He's by far the best punter in Eagles history, with a net average of 40.5 yards in his five seasons and a gross average of 45.4 - both easily franchise records. 

He's played in 208 consecutive games, the third-longest current streak in the NFL. His 45.4 career average is 14th-highest in NFL history.

His credentials are impeccable. And now, finally, he can do it on the greatest stage in sports.

"I spent a lot of years with some bad football teams and you just never know," he said. "You definitely wonder if you'll ever get here. 

"Jake Elliott, he's a rookie, he's going to a Super Bowl his first year. I told Jake it doesn't happen like that for a lot of guys and I'm an example of that. He's very fortunate to be a part of this group. 

"This is a very special group. Everything we've dealt with all year, the injuries we've had, injuries to key players, guys stepping in and filling those roles, it's a true team and that's what it takes to win. To have all these guys come together and play as one makes this year really special for me."

Jones and the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

He went into this year with an 85-123 career record, so when he talks about how he doubted he'd ever get here, it's understandable.

"I think throughout the years you always have moments, especially when things aren't going well, where you just want to be done," he said.

"You just want to quit. 'I just can't do this anymore.' Whether it's hard on your family or it's the stresses of performance. There've been times where I'm like, 'Dang, I don't know if I can keep doing this.' 

"But I know my body still feels good and I still feel like I can play and I'm glad I did and now we're in this great situation that we've earned, and it makes it all worthwhile."

When he steps on the field for the first time Sunday night either to punt or hold for Elliott, Jones will become the oldest Eagle ever to play in a Super Bowl.

That honor currently belongs to guard Woody Peoples, who was 37 when the Eagles lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV in New Orleans after the 1980 season.

"You're in the Super Bowl playing in a world championship, but you still have to focus on what you do in every other game," Jones said.

"See the ball, catch it, place it, place the laces, swing. Everything's the same. It's the situation outside that's changed. 

"It's like that scene in Hoosiers, where he measures the basket. There's a lot on the line, sure. But it's all the same stuff you've done all your life. You can't look at it like it's any bigger than it is."

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