As a senior in high school—already a verbal commit to Northwestern—Christian Jones would flip on the television and watch the Wildcats play. While watching the games, the Houston native was often astonished of NU quarterback Dan Persa.
“It’s surreal,” said Jones. “You watch TV, you see the guy on TV—Dan going out making plays—you imagine, 'I might be out there playing with him.'”
Fast-forward one year and Jones, now a freshman at Northwestern, is on the other end of Persa’s passes.
Northwestern coaches did not promise Jones immediate playing time. They did, however, give him the opportunity to earn it.
“They told me they would give me a chance to come in and make something,” Jones said. “If I prove myself, I prove myself and earn my spot.”
Jones was one of 14 early enrollees, arriving on campus in June. He took summer school classes while spending a lot of his time in the weight room with first-year strength and conditioning coach Jay Hooten.
The true freshman knew his only chance to play would come from hard work in the weight room.
“(College football) is a lot bigger and a lot faster,” he said. “The only adjustment I could make is to come in, work harder, and get bigger, faster, and stronger.”
So Jones dedicated himself to the Olympic-style lifting program, which he admits is the hardest training regiment he’s ever been through. He credits Hooten for getting him prepared to play at the next level.
“(Hooten) makes you get better,” said Jones. “He made me everything I need to be to be able to play Big Ten football.”
Jones’s hard work has paid off. He has played six catches in five games, including three catches for 68 yards against Michigan.
Things are looking up for Jones, who has now worked his way into a starting role.
“It’s a production business, and he produced on Saturday,” Pat Fitzgerald said of Jones’s performance. “He had three opportunities to make plays and he did. He blocked his fanny off. He made the plays, we're going to reward that, especially when we're looking for guys to make a difference and help us win.”
Just a freshman, Jones has impressed his teammates. Senior cornerback Jordan Mabin believes Jones has a very bright future ahead of him.
“I think he’ll be a great receiver here at Northwestern,” Mabin said. “Maybe one of the best.”
Don’t look for any let-up from the rising star. The increased role means Jones is going to work even harder.
“I feel like it’s a bigger weight on my back,” he said. “I need to come out and play hard.”