Inside of the left bicep of Paul Jones' hulking 6-foot-4 frame is a tattoo, etched in tall cursive letters, that reads 'Fearless.'
The path that Jones has chosen in his football career is one that appears to embody that characteristic ... at least on the surface. The safe move would have been to stay where he was at this time last year -- at Penn State, playing in the Big Ten in front of home crowds of more than 100,000.
Instead, on a mid-August morning, Jones leaves practice in a stadium that seats only 3,000 in the uniform of a team that plays on the NCAA Division I-AA level. For a variety of reasons, he now finds himself at Robert Morris, led there by an overwhelming belief that, above all else, he is a quarterback capable of starting and excelling in college football.
It was a desire that drove him away from the route he and many other top prospects are supposed to take. After a decorated career at Sto-Rox in which he threw for more than 5,500 yards, Jones was rated by Scout.com as the No. 3 quarterback in the nation. He chose to play at Penn State, where he redshirted his freshman year before being declared academically ineligible the following season.
After backing up quarterback Matt McGloin to begin the 2012 season, Jones was later moved to a hybrid wide receiver-running back position meant to take advantage of his athleticism and physical tools. In that role, he caught one pass for 7 yards in a loss to Virginia.
Contrary to what some believe, Jones said he was not bothered by the move. But four games into the season, he decided it was time for him to chase his desire to play quarterback, a decision that did not involve a future with the Nittany Lions.
"I didn't want to be a problem child for anyone," Jones said. "I decided to remove myself and try to play quarterback somewhere. I didn't hate that position at all. I just wanted to give quarterback a legit try first."
Two weeks following his decision to transfer, Jones took calls from interested coaches, planned visits and would relay everything back to his parents.
That process ultimately brought him to Robert Morris, less than 13 miles from where he went to high school, a move that landed the Colonials what could easily be regarded as the most high-profile transfer in the program's 20-year history.
"I thought I was going to stay at Penn State and never thought I would transfer," Jones said. "But things happen the way they do and you can't look back on that. I'm happy where I am right now."
Thus far, the move has been a beneficial one, both from a football and personal standpoint. Unlike at Penn State, where he was buried on the depth chart under a new coach with a new system, Jones has an excellent opportunity to be the linchpin of the Colonials offense.
And though his family now lives 40 minutes away in the east suburbs, he gets to see them regularly, so much so that his mom texted him to come by the house after he tweeted that he was looking for something to do one night.
With the move made and his Penn State past behind him, the work of proving himself as a quarterback has begun for Jones.
He is one of six quarterbacks on the team's roster (not all of whom will be eligible this season) and his primary competition will likely come from sophomore Derik Abbott, who appeared in one game last season.
Head coach Joe Walton has been mum on who the starter will be, but he lauded the play of Jones, who many at Robert Morris feel they are fortunate to have.
"I'm surprised they didn't work with him a little longer [at Penn State], then if they wanted to make that decision, they could have made it a little bit later," Walton said. "He's certainly a Division I caliber kid, there's no doubt about that."
Looking at Jones and his pedigree, a natural question arises -- will he stay for long or is Robert Morris simply a stopover, a temporary audition to get back to the Division I-A level? If he has an outstanding junior season, will he go elsewhere to play for a year and showcase his talent for professional teams?
For Jones, the answer is simple -- where he is now is where he will remain. It was a feeling that brought him to Moon Township, the conviction that he is a quarterback, and it is one that guides him as he continues his career three hours west of the bright lights of Beaver Stadium.
"This will be my home," Jones said. "I love it here, I love my teammates. I have confidence in the coaches here and I just think it's a good fit."
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG