Two season-ending knee injuries could have ruined his career. Instead, Marcus Jones made the Gophers’ big play against UNLV.
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.
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.
|NY Mets||4||Bottom 6th Inning|
|Boston||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Toronto||0||Top 1st Inning|
|Oklahoma City||7:00 PM|
|Calgary||0||1st Prd 15:55|
|St. Louis||0||1st Prd 15:15|
|Minnesota||0||1st Prd 17:09|
|NY Islanders||7:00 PM|
|Holy Cross||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Western Ky||10||1st Half 15:48|
|Navy||0||1st Half 20:00|
|UAB||8||1st Half 15:59|
|Boston Univ||6:00 PM|
|American Univ||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Wisconsin||19||1st Half 11:53|
|Fairfield||0||1st Half 17:41|
|Arkansas||19||1st Half 13:06|
|Morehead State||17||1st Half 12:39|
|USC Upstate||8||1st Half 15:56|
|Fla Gulf Coast||0|
|Lipscomb||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Southern Ill||7||1st Half 17:20|
|Texas State||6:30 PM|
|SC State||6:30 PM|
|Delaware State||6:30 PM|
|Middle Tennessee||6:30 PM|
|Norfolk State||6:30 PM|
|NC A&T||6:30 PM|
|Savannah State||7:00 PM|
|Southern Miss||7:00 PM|
|Georgia State||7:00 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||7:15 PM|
|South Alabama||7:30 PM|
|Alabama State||7:30 PM|
|Alabama A&M||7:30 PM|
|Sam Houston St||7:30 PM|
|Central Arkansas||7:30 PM|
|Portland State||7:30 PM|
|Southern U||7:30 PM|
|Alcorn State||7:30 PM|
|Houston Baptist||7:30 PM|
|SE Louisiana||7:45 PM|
|Eastern Ill||8:00 PM|
|VA Commonwealth||8:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Sacramento St||8:00 PM|
|Northwestern St||8:00 PM|
|Stephen F Austin|
|North Texas||8:00 PM|
|Abilene Christian||8:00 PM|
|Eastern Wash||8:05 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach State|
|UC Riverside||9:00 PM|
|(18) Texas A&M||57|
|East Tenn St||73|
|SC State||48||2nd Half 3:43|
|Delaware State||51||2nd Half 0:31|
|Portland||49||2nd Half 2:31|
|Norfolk State||48||2nd Half 0:47|
|Savannah State||49||2nd Half 17:00|
|Virginia Tech||27||2nd Half 15:54|
|Central Arkansas||28||2nd Half 13:09|
|Houston Baptist||34||2nd Half 17:06|
|Gardner-Webb||44||2nd Half 14:32|
|Georgia||38||2nd Half 17:53|
|Old Dominion||41||2nd Half 13:00|
|Ark-Little Rock||39||2nd Half 17:15|
|South Alabama||38||2nd Half 17:03|
|Georgia State||29||2nd Half|
|Sam Houston St||26||1st Half 3:54|
|SE Louisiana||23||1st Half 4:49|
|Northwestern St||20||1st Half 3:05|
|Stephen F Austin||15|
|Alabama A&M||23||1st Half 3:45|
|Alabama State||12||1st Half 9:49|
|Southern U||31||1st Half 3:54|
|Alcorn State||23||1st Half 2:05|
|Miss Valley St||0|
|Abilene Christian||12||1st Half 14:50|
|La Salle||5||1st Half 15:18|
|Illinois||2||1st Half 16:45|
|TX-San Antonio||2||1st Half 17:27|
|Valparaiso||0||1st Half 15:57|
|Missouri State||4||1st Half 16:26|
|Georgia Tech||7:00 PM|
|(15) North Carolina|
|Florida Atlantic||7:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||7:00 PM|
|Wichita State||7:00 PM|
|San Francisco||8:00 PM|
|Idaho State||8:00 PM|
|Weber State||8:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Long Beach St||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|UC Davis||9:00 PM|
|Northern Ariz||9:00 PM|
|Southern Utah||9:00 PM|