Souhan: Back healthy, Marcus Jones helps bail out the Gophers

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 30, 2013 - 10:06 AM

Two season-ending knee injuries could have ruined his career. Instead, Marcus Jones made the Gophers’ big play against UNLV.

hide

Cornerback Marcus Jones, who has suffered two season-ending knee injuries, was in fine form on this 17-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. On the second-half kickoff, Jones ran 98 yards for the TD that gave the Gophers their first comfortable lead.

Photo: RENÉE JONES SCHNEIDER • reneejones@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

On a warm summer night in Minneapolis, Marcus Jones jogged out of the Gophers’ locker room at TCF Bank Stadium, having heard his coach plead for a big play.

Jones took his position near the goal line for the second-half kickoff, then darted for a 98-yard touchdown that gave the Gophers their first comfortable lead in what would become a 51-23 rout.

With one burst of speed, Jones offered a glimpse of all that is good in college football. The stadium noise swelling as a kid who goes to classes down the street bursts into the clear. The power of an individual’s will. The unveiling of unappreciated talent. And the kind of moment that lingers in the memory.

“That’s hard work, right there, manifesting itself,’’ Jones said.

Jones gets it, all of it. He acknowledges that he may not be one of the best cornerbacks on the roster. He knows that suffering two knee injuries — one ACL tear in each, one during his freshman season, one last year as a sophomore — could have ruined a career he cherishes.

He knows that when he catches a kickoff, he has a few seconds to make all the rehab hours worth the effort, his chance to reward the coaches who recruited him despite his small frame out of Wake Forest, N.C.

He didn’t need Adrian Peterson’s miraculous recovery to inspire him. He didn’t need anybody else to inspire him.

“Honestly, I didn’t think about any other people during rehab,’’ he said. “I just thought about wanting to play the game again. I love the game so much. After the first surgery, it was tough. After the second, I knew it would really be a test, trying to get back out there, because a lot of athletes don’t make it through a second knee surgery.

“I just wanted to play again, with my team.’’

The question is, why? Why put yourself through two rehabs in two years to return to the game that threatens to concuss or maim anyone who plays it, much less a guy listed at 5-8 and 166 pounds?

“Why?’’ he asked. “Whooo. I don’t know. There’s so much about it that I love. I even love the summer workouts. I love everything about the game.

“A lot of it is the camaraderie between teammates. A lot of it is that you get to use that aggression, that speed. Everything that is a positive for you, you get to use to your advantage.

“I couldn’t play basketball. I was too small. I tried baseball for a while and had a couple of injuries there. Football has meant a lot to me. You get a scholarship to play and a lot of your life turns into football at that point, because you’re so grateful, because a lot of people do not get this opportunity.

“Football means so much because, the way I see it, if it wasn’t for college football, I wouldn’t get an education.’’

Gophers coach Jerry Kill recruited Jones as a cornerback, then switched him to receiver out of necessity, and now has switched him back to ­cornerback.

In the fourth quarter, a UNLV back broke free for what looked like would be 75-yard touchdown run. Jones fought off a block, turned and ran him down, catching him with a ­diving tackle on the 11.

As a freshman, Jones returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown against Purdue, and had another touchdown return, against Michigan, negated by a penalty.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 34 3rd Qtr
Chicago 54
Golden State 34 2nd Qtr 9:02
Milwaukee 28
Oklahoma City 6 1st Qtr 9:01
Utah 4
Denver 9:00 PM
Portland
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 3rd Prd 7:11
Carolina 3
Florida 2 3rd Prd 14:53
Montreal 2
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd 10:39
Toronto 1
Los Angeles 1 2nd Prd 10:34
Minnesota 2
Columbus 2 2nd Prd 8:21
St. Louis 1
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 12:22
Colorado 0
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 62 2nd Half 3:25
NJIT 63
Notre Dame 19 1st Half 6:33
Kentucky 19
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 2nd Half 8:00
Columbus 1
Portland 0 2nd Half 40:00
Vancouver FC 1
Colorado 0 1st Half 10:00
Houston 0
Seattle 0 1st Half 10:00
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 67 1st OT 1:18
(6) Tennessee 69
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close