Indiana sophomore Cam Jones has played a lot of positions during his football career.
He was recruited to IU to play wide receiver and as a true freshman saw action in 11 games on the defensive side at the husky position in Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 defense.
As the star of his St. Benedict at Auburndale high school team in Memphis, Tenn., Jones did a little bit of everything.
“Really versatile guy,” Allen said about Jones after Saturday’s win over UConn. “He played defensive end, wildcat quarterback, wide receiver, safety (in high school).”
One position that Jones hadn’t played in high school or as a freshman at IU was linebacker.
Arriving at IU in 2018, Jones seemed like the prototypical husky with his high level speed and athleticism and a physique that seemed to range somewhere between safety and linebacker.
But there was just one problem — Marcelino Ball was a fixture at the husky position. Well, two problems really. Ball, and the fact that it was becoming abundantly clear that Jones was too talented to keep off the field.
Jones was moved to linebacker during the offseason quite simply because IU had to find a way to get him more playing time. This wasn’t the kind of talent that IU wanted to have waiting behind Ball for two more seasons.
In more ways than one, Jones has shown an unwillingness to sit and watch.
A four year starter in high school, Jones was also an immediate factor for IU as a freshman. When an early season injury against Ball State three weeks ago appeared to derail his first season as a linebacker, Jones showed another aspect of his dynamic abilities as a football player.
His dedication to the game extends beyond the field to the recovery room.
“Three to four days in a row I spent 8 to 10 hours in the training room just to get back,” Jones said. “Every single hour, I ain’t leaving. I knew how important it was to the team to be back out on the field. They look at me and I just gotta show them that I’m working and they’re going to work hard for me as well.”
On the sideline against Eastern Illinois in a boot and walking gingerly, Jones looked nowhere near a week three return against Ohio State.
“His passion for wanting to — he was so passionate about getting back on that field and wanted to play against Ohio State last week,” Allen said.
The Hoosier head coach sees that passion in the 6-foot-3, 224 pound Jones rubbing off to his teammates in the locker room as well.
“When you work that hard to get back, it’s infectious,” Allen said.
Jones’ rehab efforts helped him return for the Ohio State game, and on Saturday against UConn, his dynamic talents were on full display.
Jones’ instincts as a football player helped him track the eyes of the UConn quarterback, and his elite speed took care of the rest as his 44 yard interception return for a touchdown gave IU a 24-3 lead early in the second half.
“The energy out of the field, what he plays with is so athletic. He should have had another pick. I thought he was going to get another one,” Allen said.
Jones’ closing speed highlighted on his interception is exactly why Allen was comfortable moving him to linebacker.
“He’s probably the most athletic guy in that part of the field for sure, definitely at linebacker. But he could play safety. He’s that athletic,” Allen said.
Despite still being just 19 years old, Jones has already earned the respect of his teammates.
“Everything about him (is special),” defensive lineman Michael Ziemba said after the UConn game. “He’s good, he’s fast, he’s physical. He’s a leader. Everything about him.”
Now fully recovered, Jones’ is directing his passion towards getting Indiana’s defense right.
The Hoosiers allowed just three points to Eastern Illinois and UConn, sandwiched around a 51 point stinker against Ohio State.
Even on the heels of his big game and a dominating team effort against UConn, Jones isn’t satisfied.
“We’re not where we should be,” Jones said. “We’ve got some things to clean up and get better. We’ve got to continue to focus.”
Whether it is in the training room, on the field or watching film, Jones appears to go all out, all the time.
His head coach saw that determination in Jones when he was recruiting him, and it extends beyond just football.
“That’s how he was raised,” Allen said. “That’s the kind of young man we brought here. He’s the same way about academics. He’s just an awesome young man that does everything we ask him to do, and he’s also very gifted, so it’s a great combination.”
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