BOZEMAN — Logan Jones could not help but think of what the world might think of him if he did not finish his career as a Bobcat.
Jones did not get invited to fall camp leading up to his sophomore season in August of 2016. At the time, it seemed like the first domino in the all too common story the variety of reasons attrition plagues college football.
“I basically told him don’t bother coming back from Flathead Lake a couple of years ago and he ended up not having his scholarship back,” Montana State third-year head coach Jeff Choate said on Monday. “I give the kid a lot of credit.”
Jones not only returned and earned his way back into the good graces of a coaching staff entering its first season back in 2016. By the 2017 season, the running back from Kalispell Glacier High rose to the top of Montana State’s depth chart.
“To be honest, I was just thinking about the future and I didn’t want to be Logan Jones who quit the Bobcats. I wanted to be Logan Jones who played for the Bobcats,” Jones said earlier this week. “What if I have a kid in the future? I don’t want to tell him that I quit.
“Personally, I’ve never quit anything in my entire life. I can’t mentally bring myself to do that. I need to be able to stick things out. I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life to where I know if you just stick out the hard parts, the sun will shine eventually. I think it’s shining now.”
Quite the optimistic attitude for a explosive player and steady contributor who missed all of fall camp and the first seven weeks of what was supposed to be his senior season. But that perseverance is what has endeared Jones to Choate even if the running back has been largely unavailable in 2018.
“Most guys would’ve said ‘to heck with it’ and walked away and probably point the finger at me and think it was my fault,” Choate said. “But I think he’s such a better person because he’s pushed through that. He’s got great perspective.”
Entering this season, the Bobcats knew standout running back Troy Andersen would instead spend the fall playing quarterback. Nick LaSane graduated, Edward Vander transferred to Utah and Noah James retired for medical reasons, meaning Jones was the only running back returning with any experience. To make the situation murkier, former running backs coach Michael Pitre took a job on Jonathan Smith’s staff at Oregon State in the off-season.
Choate and his staff assumed the more mature and senior version of Jones would be a leader of a group that included a new coach in converted quarterbacks coach DeNarius McGhee and a group of new players, from converted wide receivers Karl Tucker II and Tyrel Burgess to transfers Tyler Natee and Maleek Barkley to true freshmen Isaiah Ifanse and Lane Sumner.
But Jones has not been able to provide much guidance simple because he has been unavailable.
During a summer conditioning workout that he likened to a “Navy Seals course”, Jones felt a pop in his midsection. He suffered a muscle tear that included a piece of his abdomen and an abductor getting torn off the bone. That injury cost him the entire August set of practices as well as MSU’s first seven games.
Last week, Jones returned in MSU’s 24-17 loss at Idaho State. He lined up as MSU’s kickoff returner on several occasions and also earned two carries out of the backfield.
“It felt really good just to knock the rust off,” Jones said. “It was hard watching all season and to finally play was a relief. Putting the pads on for the first time was new and different but then getting out there and doing warm ups with all the guys felt so good. It was so much fun just being able to be there.
“The circumstances didn’t play out the way we wanted to but to be there, be with the team…one thing that really sucks when you are injured is you don’t really get to be around the team as much. Getting to come back, see all your brothers, having a good time with them, having a nice little trip, it was really fun.”
After helping lead Glacier to its first Class AA state championship in school history in 2014, Jones joined the Bobcats as a preferred walk-on. His sharp special teams acumen, something Choate has consistently praised over the last three years, stood out right away to former head coach Rob Ash and his staff as well.
By midseason in 2015, Jones was MSU’s primary kickoff returner. He took a kick 100 yards for a touchdown against Portland State, helping him earn honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference honors as a special teams player as a true freshman.
In previous years, an injury like Jones’ would’ve sucked most of his senior season away. Instead, because of a new rule where a player can still redshirt if they play up to four games, Jones can play in all three of MSU’s contests in November to finish the regular season and still take a redshirt, setting up for a fifth and final season next fall.
“I remember coming here and I remember my freshman year, I burned my redshirt and everyone was asking me if I was sure I wanted to do that and I wanted to do it,” Jones said.
“I think it’s an interesting rule but I think it’s a really good rule, especially for a lot of the freshman coming in. They will get a lot more experience. We are going to play a few more the next three games because they can keep that redshirt and get more experience. I think it will be a great way to leap forward for a lot of these guys in a certain sense, see what they are going to be up against the next four years in their careers.”
Leaping forward is exactly what Choate has seen out of Jones over the last three years. From a kid who Choate frankly called “immature” for his decision to not spend the 2016 summer in Bozeman working out with the Bobcats, Jones has evolved into a young man Choate will lean on to help guide the MSU offense down the home stretch of the 2018 season.
“I never ever thought I would ever say this ever about Logan Jones but leadership is one of the things he’s going to provide in our running backs meeting room,” Choate said. “That kid has come a long way. I mean a LONG way.”
Jones has another season to cement his career at Montana State. The adversity he’s faced so far this season have been a part of his maturation process, something he said he could not have done if he would’ve walked away from the game a few summers ago.
“That was a bad situation but I will say without football, I would not be becoming the man I am today,” Jones said. “I’m a lot more mature. I know my priorities school-wise. Coach Choate has been amazing making me a better person in every aspect.”
Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.