Taiwan Jones reads football defenses as if he has a cheat sheet. Recognizing and understanding the written word has proved to be a much tougher obstacle.
In keeping with his style, Jones stared down the challenge presented by dyslexia and landed a job with the Raiders after being forced to take an unconventional path from high school.
"It's been frustrating," Jones said of his ongoing battle with dyslexia, a learning disorder that leads to writing and spelling problems. "My father was a big inspiration. He told me to give it my all, and they eventually would find me."
Big-time colleges knew all about Jones during his standout career at Deer Valley (Calif.) High, but a subpar grade-point average made it impossible for Division I colleges to offer him a scholarship.
That turned out to be Eastern Washington's gain. Assistant coach Chris Hansen took one look at Jones on videotape and offered him a scholarship soon thereafter.
"I'll never get a player like him again," said Hansen, the running backs coach at Eastern Washington. "We usually don't get to touch players like Taiwan. They're going to USC and Washington."
Rich Woods coached Jones at Deer Valley. He recalled numerous college scouts dropping by campus to watch tape of some of Deer Valley's top players.
"I would put on the film and they would say, 'Who's that 22 kid? Where's he going?"' Woods said of Jones.
The excitement died once Woods informed recruiters of Jones' issues with his grades.
Jones' transformation from a struggling student into a successful one began with his being diagnosed with dyslexia his senior year at Deer Valley.
The diagnosis enabled Jones to get extra time on tests and assignments, which helped him get his GPA over the required 2.0 so that he could play at Eastern Washington after redshirting one season.
For years, Jones wondered why he struggled grasping things his peers learned in short order.
"It always made me feel smaller," Jones said. "I was struggling, while people were telling me, 'You should get this. What's the problem?' Now things are easier because I know that I can learn; I just need more help."
Woods and Hansen said Jones' learning disability doesn't inhibit his understanding of play-calls whatsoever.
Jones doesn't need much help on the football field. His blazing speed -- he posted a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in early April -- makes him a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Jones, 6-foot and 198 pounds, did just that the first time he touched the ball for Eastern Washington in 2009, scoring on an 87-yard run. It validated what Hansen saw on videotape before Jones arrived in Cheney, Wash., and during offseason drills his freshman season.
"He tore us up when he played on the offensive scout team," Hansen said. "We couldn't touch him."
As a result, the Eagles converted Jones from cornerback to running back before his sophomore season in 2009. Jones rushed for 2,955 yards and 29 touchdowns his sophomore and junior seasons. He also scored eight touchdowns on receptions or kick returns.
That sold the Raiders on using a fourth-round pick to get Jones in the NFL draft in April. Hansen said it's an investment that is going to pay huge dividends.
Jones' exploits prompted Hansen to create a new stat: how many tacklers a ball carrier made miss and yards gained after such misses. In one game against Montana, Jones racked up 16 for 168 yards.
"Montana was the best-tackling team in our conference, and Taiwan is making them look stupid," Hansen said.
Things won't be any different in the NFL, Hansen said.
"He's going to make those guys look stupid, too," Hansen said. "When he gets into the secondary in the NFL, he's also going to make those guys miss."
Jones joins a Raiders team already set at running back, with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush well established.
Yet, there's always room for a player with Jones' speed and playmaking ability, Raiders coach Hue Jackson said.
"How do you pass up a guy that can make plays like that?" Jackson said soon after the Raiders selected Jones. "As I keep saying, you find a special talent, a guy that can score touchdowns as often and as fast as he can, and if he is sitting there, it's hard to pass up those kinds of guys. I wouldn't pass him up, and we didn't pass him up. "& This guy is a tremendous, tremendous football player, and he is something special."
Jones said he isn't sure how he will be used by the Raiders. Even so, he is certain that he has the kind of skill set that can't be overlooked.
"I'm a real versatile player," Jones said. "I can return kicks, catch passes, block. I'll do whatever it takes to help the team. I'll work as hard as I can to reach my goal of playing in the NFL."