Chris Jones worked alone after practice Tuesday. No coaches, no teammates.

Most every other Husker had left Nebraska’s indoor practice facility by the time Jones had set his helmet and shoulder pads on the turf and worked on the fundamentals of his position — backpedal, cut; backpedal, cut.

It was nothing fancy. In fact, it was probably what you would expect from a senior leader with dreams of playing in the NFL.

And it was emblematic of the work Jones put in the last three months to recover from a meniscus tear in his left knee that had many thinking he could miss the entire season.

That’s three months. Not four to six, as the original diagnosis after Jones’ injury in mid-July originally indicated.

“I kept telling my mom every day — ‘I’m getting better; this is happening,’” Jones said of the recovery process. “Every day was something different. I just kept getting stronger and strong and I’m like ‘Mom, I’m gonna beat this timeline.’ And I was so happy when it was time for me to come back out here and play.”

The time came last week against Wisconsin. Jones got about 20 snaps, getting in on two tackles.

That was the plan all along, NU defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said.

“Everything that happened with Chris happened by design. We had a plan together as a football family and it was executed. It was just the right amount for him to get his beak wet, so to speak,” Diaco said. “Now he’s going to be back in the role that most people anticipated and what’s appropriate for this week.”

As Diaco talked about Jones’ role, Jones stood 50 feet away talking about what he expects against Ohio State.

“I expect to play. I expect to, even if I don’t start, I expect to contribute to my team; contribute to my brothers,” Jones said. “I know they missed me out there on the field, and I missed being with them. That was one of my main motivations when I was rehabbing, just getting back out here with my brothers.”

Jones leaned into the hard work of recovery while leaning hard on his faith and his mom for inspiration and support.

“Thankful for those guys in the training room. They got me prepared, got me ready. Every day was just, go in there, not really say much, just grind hard and just see what the outcome was going to be,” Jones said. “And then when the time came to test it out, everything was perfect; everything was strong. I felt confident, and came out here to practice and felt great.”

There was some thought, Jones said, to taking advantage of the redshirt season he had available. Take the whole year off, get a degree, maybe come back for one more full season. But his mom stressed patience in making the decision. Turns out mom had some foresight.

“When it happened at first, I was down. But then I thought to myself, there’s no reason to get down. Just fight, just keep pushing yourself every day,” Jones said. “If I come back early, I’m going to come back early. But I just prayed about it, and I felt that I was going to come back.”

Now, with Ohio State coming to town and string of games down the road that will shape the season and the future of the program, Jones will end his career back in the role many didn’t think he would fill — a critical on-field player who has long been a leader away from the spotlight.

“Just take it day by day. Knowing that I missed the first half of the season, I don’t look at it as a bad thing,” Jones said. “I just look at it as God maybe didn’t want me to play the first half of the season, for some reason. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I would have played the first half of the season and got hurt, and could have been worse.

“So things happen at different times that we don’t understand, but I just say God made it happen for a reason.”

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