Minneapolis Washburn head coach Giovan Jenkins has known Jeffrey Jones for a long time. Jenkins followed Jones through a youth and middle school career that made him a local star and the talk of the town.
Imagine Jenkins' excitement then, when Jones finally got to high school. Already a big ninth grader, Jones was slated to play heavy minutes behind returning senior Montrell Wade, a star in his own right, but that's what fate intervened.
"We knew he was going to play a lot for us," Jenkins said, "but the reason he started for us was that my tailback, my senior tailback, was actually shot in the head coming off of a 2,000 yard season as a junior and that's why Jeff carried the load for us. He would have been a dominant backup for us had Montrell Wade been able to play his senior year, but due to the accident, that's what allowed Jeff to be a starter for us."
With Wade looking on from the sidelines as an honorary captain, Jones seized the moment, rushing for 773 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging six yards a carry as a freshman. His improvement through the year was noticeable as he adapted to a higher level of competition.
"There was an initial adjustment. Things move faster at the varsity level and things he was able to do as a middle school kid didn't always work. He wasn't able to run away from everybody the way he did in park board. He came off a season of 86 touchdowns as an eighth grader in like 20 games and ended up winning the national tournament down in Florida. He had a really good eighth grade year, so we knew we had something special coming in. He did have some young habits, some tendencies, but he was a stud from day one."
This past year, as a sophomore, Jones took it to another level. He rushed for 1,310 yards, averaging over nine yards a carry and scored 18 touchdowns as his natural abilities took over. It wasn't all physical either, as the work he put in paid off.
"His size and his speed and his ability as a football player [make him special]," Jenkins explains. "He's 6'0, 190-lbs, he's fast, strong, very physical and very competitive. He's a very humble kid though. He's kind of known that he's been good for a long time, so he's had a long time to deal with the success and he handles it very well. He's a young man that I pick up every morning and he works very hard in the weight room. He's a kid that is very dedicated to getting better and doing what's right on and off the field."
How does a kid come in from middle school and lead a group of juniors and seniors? Jones demonstrated how the last two seasons as he established himself as one of guys the other kids look up to despite his youth.
"He's an all around leader. He's a kid that when coaches say he has "it," he has "it." He's a leader and a motivator. He's a kid that pushes seniors even when he was a freshman; pushes them to work harder and do their best. He's a practice kid, a game kid, a workout, weight room kid, a summer training kid. Everything you do he does to the best of his abilities and he competes at a high level at everything he does."
Not only have Jenkins, his teammates and the community noticed Jones' talents, but the nearby Golden Gophers of Minnesota have too, becoming the first, and currently only school to offer him a scholarship.
"He was offered in mid-December by Coach Kill. He's obviously gotten a lot of attention from other programs. Coach Kill was able to get out and watch him play basketball and was very impressed with how explosive and dynamic he is on the basketball court. I think that helped lead Coach Kill to his decision to offer him as well as the recruiter for our area, Coach Tracy Claeys, watched us play against Southwest this year and Jeff tore them apart. Watching him on the field, watching him on the basketball court and watching him at camp last summer, I guess, solidified Coach Kill's want or desire to offer the young man."
That offer will go a long way, because Jones is not the type of kid who will forget where he came from or who was first, as evidenced by his resistance to transfer schools in the face of numerous recruiting attempts.
"He was really really happy to get the in-state school. He's a very loyal kid and that's why he's not at your Eden Prairies or your Wayzatas or Cretins or DeLaSalle for that matter. DeLaSalle and Eden Prairie and Holy Angels, they still contact him through, not the coaches themselves, but individuals associated with the program, and try to convince him that he's in a bad place and the grass is greener on the other side, and he's a loyal kid. He's a kid that always wanted to be a Miller. Both his siblings went to Washburn and he grew up wanting to be a Washburn Miller ever since he could remember, so there wasn't a lot of stuff I had to do to convince him or keep him around. I just had to let him know that I would go to bat for him and the rest has kind of been history."
The Gophers may have struck first, but they are bound to have company, and Jenkins has been fielding interest from around the country.
"Wisconsin, Oregon, Michigan State, those are just the three to name a few that have definitely either come in and watched basketball games or have contacted me to see tape or film on him. We'll go to one-day camps this year. We're going to Wisconsin. We're going to go to Minnesota and Iowa State. Iowa State is another school that's interested in him. He preformed very well at their camp last year as a freshman, as well as the Minnesota camp. We're going to go to Iowa State again. We're going to go to North Dakota State and we're also going to Northern Iowa for camps."
That is likely when these schools and others will begin to learn what Giovan Jenkins and folks in Minneapolis have known for quite awhile.
Sophomore Clips - RB #21