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Sharing his knowledge

Jones tries to tackle issues -- and Brady

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Given the magnitude of the game, Alltel Stadium will hardly serve as a good stage for a college reunion Sunday. Best that Tom Brady go about his duties, while Dhani Jones sees to his.

The fact that they were teammates at the University of Michigan is a detail for another time, another place.

"It was a good time. We had a pretty good relationship," said Jones, a starting linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. "We're cool."

They'll be bitter enemies Sunday night for a ride called Super Bowl XXXIX, though Jones is quick to point out that he enters the game with the utmost respect for the opposition.

"They're the champs, and you have to beat the champs," he said.

Of course, a prime reason that the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions is Brady, Jones's onetime teammate. They weren't close friends at Ann Arbor, but Jones admires Brady for the way he handled things back then.

"He had a bit of a strange situation, only because [Michigan] had so much talent and so many players at the same position that it was easy to get lost," said Jones. "Everyone knew he had the talent, but he was sharing the job with [Drew] Henson, sharing the job with [Brian] Griese, sharing the job with so many people."

Through it all, said Jones, Brady "was very humble about it. I think he was very confident in his abilities. Certainly, it's proven to be true now. That was just the nature of college football."

Both Jones and Brady were members of the Class of 2000 and both were sixth-round draft picks. Jones went 177th to the New York Giants; Brady came in at No. 199, chosen by New England. Neither ex-Wolverine can boast of a memorable rookie season -- Jones tore his ACL and sat out the year; Brady was a third-stringer who barely played -- but they have made great strides since then.

"He was good in college," said Jones, "but he's a whole lot better now. I'm a much different player, too."

But Jones is hardly in possession of a resume that rivals his former teammate's, Brady having twice been Super Bowl MVP. Jones came back in his sophomore NFL year to play in 16 games as a reserve, then in 2002 he started 14 times. In 2003, Jones had a breakthrough season, one of the highlights an 11-tackle game in a sloppy road loss to New England, 17-6.

That came during a season in which Jones started all 16 games and generated enough interest to get the free agency ball rolling. He chose Philadelphia, partly because the team was solid, partly because he considers it a city of great culture that plays into his off-field interests. Jones, you see, is more than meets the eye, a 6-foot-1-inch, 240-pound dynamo who combines great speed and strength with a social conscience. He isn't trying to save the world; he's just trying to introduce Americans to it.

"That's what I want to do, but I haven't figured it out," said Jones, 26.

He loves classical music, takes piano lessons, plays the saxophone, too, and has a passion for bow ties and motivational speaking. His father a Naval commander, his mother an anesthesiologist, Jones was raised in various parts of the world, including Japan.

"I was maybe 5, but I remember a lot of it because of how kind the people were," said Jones, "and how interesting the culture was."

His parents took their children on vacations to different corners of the globe, and Jones has carried on that tradition. Last summer, he visited Petra, which is in present-day Jordan.

"Remember the search for the Holy Grail? Remember Half-Moon Canyon?" asks Jones. "That's Petra. That's it."

Such an experience helps give Jones a greater appreciation of what is out there, and it's the desire to share this knowledge that drives him.

"My parents? They spent more money on us traveling than they did on most things, so I was fortunate," he said. "It piqued my interest and it went from there.

"Maybe I'll take [kids] to Africa," said Jones, who is quite passionate about the subject. Why? "Because people [in America] are ignorant about what goes on in the world. They have a lack of understanding. [I want to] take the blinders off of Americans. You go to another country, people are so much better traveled, regardless of what they have or don't have."

In the Hindi language, "Dhani" means "thinking man," and he is all of that.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "There's so much of the world to see and there's so much ignorance on our soil because of people's lack of interest in what goes on around them."

A year ago, Jones was in the NFL playoffs, though in a manner that hardly satisfied his thirst for competition: He worked as a reporter for the NFL Network. He much prefers his role this time around, and, yes, the chance to come up against a former teammate adds a little bit of flavor.

But so, too, does it provide a supreme challenge.

"Brady? He's very calm. Doesn't get rattled very easily," said Jones.

The days at Ann Arbor, after all, weren't that long ago, but then Jones seems to drift away from the nostalgia and become more focused on the task at hand.

Quietly, Jones nodded his head.

"They're a dynasty and we're not," he said.

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