Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama plays Clemson in the college football championship game Monday in Glendale, Ariz. (Vasha Hunt/AL.com via AP)

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama plays Clemson in the college football championship game Monday in Glendale, Ariz. (Vasha Hunt/AL.com via AP)

Football fans are eagerly anticipating the College Football National Championship matchup between the No. 1 Clemson Tigers and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, scheduled for Jan. 11 at 8:30 p.m.

But there’s a special reason football watchers from the Baltimore region may tune into the big game: Alabama’s top ranked defensive unit features Baltimore native Cyrus Jones, a senior defensive back who has helped the Crimson Tide dominate opposing offense all season long. 

Jones was born and raised in Baltimore and played receiver, running back and defensive back for Gilman High School from 2008 to 2011. He was named the 2011 Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year, and received several Division I scholarship offers, eventually choosing Alabama. 

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones (5) eludes Michigan State long snapper Taybor Pepper (52) on his way to a 57-yard touchdown during the second half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The five-foot, 10-inch, 200-pound athlete was a receiver and return specialist during his freshman year for Alabama, the same year the school won its third national championship in four years. But he switched to the defensive side of the ball in his sophomore year and has been an impact player for the Crimson Tide ever since.

This season, Jones developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the nation and also thrived as a premiere punt returner. He showed that latter skill to the world when he snagged an interception and ran back a punt for a 57-yard touchdown to help Alabama crush Michigan State, 38-0, in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, punching the Tide’s ticket to the championship game.
Now, Jones is just one win away from helping Alabama win its first national title in three years.