Want to make yourself attractive to prospective employers?
It helps to hustle.
Consider the case of defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was a rarity this offseason. The 49ers had 17 unrestricted free agents on March 9, the first day of the new league year, and their new regime only re-signed one player: Jones.
So what made Jones unique? The new coaching staff noticed that he simply never stopped when they studied video of the 2016 49ers.
“He’s one of the guys that stood out for me because I’m a high-energy guy and I like guys that run to the ball. And he runs to the ball,” defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina said. “He’s not the most gifted person, but he gives you everything that he has.”
Indeed, despite modest ability, the 2013 sixth-round pick has carved out a decent career. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked how Jones has been able to overcome his limitations.
“Because he’s going to work harder and longer,” Saleh said, “than you’re willing to go.”
The 49ers re-signed Jones, 26, but he’s not guaranteed a roster spot on a team teeming with defensive linemen who will play plenty inside. That group includes three first-round picks in Solomon Thomas (2017), DeForest Buckner (2016) and Arik Armstead (2015).
Jones doesn’t possess their pedigree, but he does appear to have the trust of the defensive staff. And it’s not the first time he’s won over coaches with a style that’s as no-frills as his name.
“Ever since high school, I’ve kind of been known as a relentless pursuer,” Jones said. “Really, I’ve been doing it ever since I started playing football. I’ve always been nonstop, full-go.”
Jones hasn’t stopped despite encountering several roadblocks in his five-team career.
Drafted by the Texans, he was waived by both Houston and Tampa Bay before Week 2 of his rookie season. Last year, he was waived by the Dolphins and claimed by the 49ers in November. He finished with 17 tackles in six games and was a reason the 49ers’ NFL-worst run defense offered a bit more resistance late in the season.
Former general manager Trent Baalke and assistant general manager Tom Gamble raved about his play in exit interviews, but Jones wasn’t sure how the new regime would view him. He was encouraged by the presence of Zgonina, who was Houston’s assistant defensive line coach when he was drafted.
“I had really good feedback from (Baalke and Gamble), but then, obviously, they were no longer here,” Jones said. “But I think the (new regime) went back over last year’s film and liked what they saw. And Zgonina knows me and how I play. That helped, too.”
It also helped that Jones’ career was taking off a few years ago before an injury led to another detour.
In 2013, with the Patriots, he led AFC rookies with six sacks. In 2014, he had three sacks and made 12 starts en route to a Super Bowl win. However, Jones played in the Super Bowl with a torn calf muscle and the injury sidelined him for the 2015 season and led to his release in April 2016.
Now, just over a year later, his career appears to be back on track. He’s reunited with Zgonina, a defensive lineman that had an eight-team, 17-year career and also discovered hustle was attractive to prospective employers.
When asked to account for his longevity, Zgonina smiled and noted he used to play just like Jones.
“I ran to the ball,” he said.
Eric Branch is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Eric_Branch