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Tony Jones back in the mix at WR for Northwestern

Northwestern University Football against University MinnesotOctober 2 2010  Minneapolis MN

Northwestern University Football against University Minnesota October 2, 2010 in Minneapolis, MN

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Updated: May 6, 2012 8:24AM

Wide receiver Tony Jones spent most of last football season watching his Northwestern teammates depart for road trips. It wasn’t the kind of season Jones planned on after playing as a true freshman in 2010.

“I remember [the] Boston College [trip in September] when the bus was leaving and I went back into the locker room by myself, thinking, ‘I can’t wait to be out there,’ ” Jones said.

Jones tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during practice a week before the 2011 season opener at Boston College. He said he was running a route across the middle of the field, caught the ball and was hit. The way his knee hit the turf resulted in the torn PCL.

“And that was my year,” Jones said.

But now Jones is healthy and is making the most of spring practice, going full throttle.

Jones isn’t afraid of reinjuring the knee, and he also has been working on his chemistry with quarterback Kain Colter.

Colter and Jones are close off the field, as well, so that might help spark the Wildcats’ offense this fall.

Besides having Jones back in the mix, the Wildcats’ receiver corps this fall could be as potent as in years past with Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones. And if USC transfer Kyle Prater gets a waiver from the NCAA and is able to play, the group could be even more explosive.

“I’m trying to be modest, but I think that this wide-receiver unit has the ability to be the best in the Big Ten or in the country,” Jones said. “We have a lot of guys to be excited about.”

Coach Pat Fitzgerald is just happy to have Jones back.

“To have Tony back in the mix, he played for us as a true freshman, and that was impressive,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think he’s tentative. It’s different, running and getting in shape compared to getting hit and getting in shape.”

Fitzgerald burned Jones’ redshirt at Minnesota in 2010, and Jones played in the Wildcats’ remaining seven games that season minus the TicketCity Bowl. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch, so it was safe to assume that Jones was going to be in the rotation at one of the receiver spots in 2011.

That plan didn’t exactly pan out.

After the injury, Jones made two road trips: Army on Sept. 17 and the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December. Jones tried to get back in the rotation for the Illinois game Oct. 1, but the knee wasn’t ready, and Fitzgerald sat the 6-foot, 185-pound sophomore for the rest of the season.

But making that bowl trip made an impact on Jones.

“Seeing the atmosphere was a lot of fun, and you got chills,” Jones said.

“You just wished you were playing.”

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