Goss: Malin Jones becomes a true ‘wildcat’
January 11, 2012 6:40PM
Malin Jones, of Joliet Catholic, was a participant in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. | File photo
Updated: February 13, 2012 8:53AM
Malin Jones is eager to become a Wildcat, and now he knows a little something about running from the wildcat formation.
The Joliet Catholic senior wingback, who will continue his football career at Northwestern, participated in last week’s Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl at Chase Field in sunny Phoenix, which attracted 100 of the best high school seniors in the country. Although his playing time was cut short by a shoulder ding, he did carry the ball four times for the East squad, which lost 17-14 to the West.
Three of his rushes were off direct snaps in the wildcat.
“That was my first time doing that. I really enjoyed it,” Jones said. “The coaches from Northwestern were joking with me about it after the game.”
Jones also took one handoff out of the shotgun formation. “I got to practice all week; it was a good start for running out of the spread (which he will do at Northwestern),” he said. “I’ve run from the double-wing since I was in seventh grade. It was nice to be able to do this once.”
Jones, a Herald-News All-Area selection, rushed for 1,681 yards in the fall in helping Joliet Catholic to a Class 5A state runner-up finish. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry and scored 25 rushing touchdowns. He also caught eight passes for 322 yards, a 40.3 average, and three touchdowns. For good measure, he made 35 tackles, including 22 solo, from his defensive positions, safety and outside linebacker.
He will leave as the only three-time 1,000-yard rusher in Joliet Catholic history. He is No. 3 on the school’s all-time list 4,087 career rushing yards, behind only J.R. Zwierzynski and Tyler Hudetz. He is No. 2 in scoring behind Zwierzynski.
Jones’ shoulder injury in the Semper Fidelis Bowl occurred on the first series. He played another series later, plus an isolated play here and there.
“I worked with the trainers at halftime on my range of motion,” he said. “It meant a lot to play in the game, but at the same time, it didn’t. I didn’t think it would be worth risking anything. I’m fine. It was just precautionary to sit out.”
Bolingbrook linebacker Antonio Morrison, who’s committed to Florida, was scheduled to play as well but was unable to participate after breaking a bone in his foot during the Class 8A quarterfinals. Montini wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who destroyed Joliet Catholic’s pass defense in the Class 5A title game and will play at Nebraska, was Jones’ teammate on the East.
Jones was in Arizona for almost a week, and it was a whirlwind of activity.
“Every day we woke up early and it never stopped,” he said. “There were activities for the players every day.”
One was special.
“We got to run out on the field and spread the flag at the Fiesta Bowl (Oklahoma State vs. Stanford),” he said. “It was one of those very big flags that covers the whole field. You can’t put that feeling into words.
“We also went to the Insight Bowl (Oklahoma vs. Iowa). And they had a 14-year-old all-star game down there, and we hung with the little guys who really look up to us. That was good.”
Jones said the players from the East and West teams “stuck together all week. That was fun, getting to know guys who are the very best in the nation, are your age and will play against you in college. There were maybe three guys committed to Wisconsin who were there and others who are committed to other Big Ten schools.
“I have good friends at Joliet Catholic, but most of them did not go through the type of recruiting process I went through. The guys at that game did.”
Classes resumed this week after Christmas break, and Jones has been hit with scores of questions from his friends and teachers about his experience, which he has been happy to answer.
After he graduates in the spring, he said he will have “a month and a half or so to myself.” That’s because Northwestern’s “optional” workouts begin June 21.
“I’ll be there; I’m really excited about it,” Jones said. “You probably want to put quote marks around the ‘optional’ part. Last year there was only one incoming freshman who didn’t attend.”
This future Wildcat can’t wait to get started with the next chapter.
“The whole thing at the Semper Fidelis Bowl was a good learning experience,” said Jones, who was cited for his outstanding play during practice sessions. “It was a good jump-start to football outside of Joliet Catholic. Outside of not playing much after I got knocked on the shoulder, I couldn’t have asked for more.”