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

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Marshall 52 FINAL
Northern Ill 23
Navy 17 FINAL
San Diego St 16
Central Mich 48 FINAL
Western Ky 49
Fresno State 6 2nd Qtr 2:32
Rice 16
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

<
Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What's your favorite Gophers football uniform colors?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close