Follow The Republic:
COLUMBUS East senior quarterback Alex Cowan knows that his friend and “backfield buddy” Markell Jones has achieved another level than the terrific teammates that surround him.
“The sky is the limit for that kid,” said Cowan, who shares stardom on the high school level with Jones, but ultimately knows the junior running back is headed toward bigger and better things.
Those bigger, better things are filling up Jones’ mailbox, letters of interest from programs such as Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, Texas A&M, Ohio State, and on a more local level, Purdue and Indiana.
Sitting on the steps in front of his high school after a morning practice on Wednesday, Jones revealed another side to a kid who loves sports, and enjoys life.
It seems that the “sky is the limit” means something different to him.
“I want to be a pilot,” he said, an excited look covering his face as if he had just scored his fifth touchdown of a game. “My dad is a pilot for Cummins.”
Jym Jones laughs when told of his son’s comment.
“I’m real proud of him,” said Jym Jones, who noted that he has never been a football player. “Markell is a fun-loving kid and a very smart kid. He always has been a good student. At a very young age, he always was doing puzzles, trying to figure things out.
“And he knows that this whole football thing could end in an instant.”
It only takes an instant for Jones to disappear on a football field as well, turning a corner and saying so-long to defenders. If there was one minor concern about Jones’ overall game going into his junior season, at least from a college recruiter’s standpoint, it would have been whether Jones has Division I speed.
Toughness never has beenan issue as Jones’ cinder-block-of-a-body is built to run over anything in his path.
But could he score from anywhere on the field?
The answer, as proven many times this season, is “yes.”
Jones has 18 touchdowns of more than 20 yards this season and eight touchdowns of 50 yards or more.
“He has the speed when he hits that corner,” said Jeffersonville coach Lonnie Oldham, who watched Jones take a screen pass for a 64-yard touchdown in East’s 41-0 victory on Friday. “He is fast. He’s got the stuff that it takes to make it in college. He has great speed and power.
“A lot of backs try to be fancy, but when a guy gets to him, he lowers his shoulder. He is like a throwback.”
Jones enjoys hearing a coach say he is a hard-nosed player.
“I try to run aggressively, like I am mad every play,” he said. “If someone shows up, I will lower the boom.”
New Albany coach Charlie Fields called Jones a nightmare and said he reminded him of 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
“Herschel Walker? University of Georgia?” Jones asked. “I saw him on an (ESPN) ‘E-60’ show. That is so crazy, but it’s cool.
“I wouldn’t go that far. Herschel Walker was big.”
Walker was 6-foot-2, about 225 pounds while Jones is about 5-10, 192. He ran last season at 200 pounds.
“I am becoming more lean,” he said.
This past summer, Jones worked with former East quarterbacks Drew and Dusty Kiel at their family’s home in Columbus.
“With Markell, we were working with such a natural talent,” said Drew Kiel. “We wanted to increase his work ethic because you could see that at times he was going through the motions because everything has come so easy to him.”
Jones said that the Kiel brothers taught him about nutrition and worked on his flexibility, and they worked on his hip and hamstring mobility.
“It’s a flexibility thing,” he said about working to increase his speed. “It’s the key, honestly.”
Drew Kiel said they taught Jones about gaining “good weight” and shedding “bad weight.”
“We wanted to make sure he was eating right,” Drew Kiel said. “Dusty and I both were nutrition majors. It does make a difference in how you feel and how you work out.”
Jym Jones thought it was an important summer for his son.
“Working with the Kiel brothers was helpful,” he said. “They were telling him the things that we, as parents (mom is Cari) tell him, that little things can make a difference such as stretching, diet, staying humble, staying focused.”
The younger Jones never has had trouble focusing in the weight room.
“He loves lifting weights,” Jym Jones said. “You don’t have to force him to work out.”
“I am a lot stronger and all my numbers are going up,” Markell Jones said. “I bench press close to 300, and I want to set the team’s power clean record. Stevie Brown (an East grad who plays for the New York Giants) has the record at 315. I did 305, and I am going to do 315. It’s my favorite lift.”
He also has forced himself to be a better student of the game.
“My vision has totally improved one-hundredfold,” he said. “That comes from being a student of the game, by watching film. If you understand what the defense is doing, you can be to a spot before them.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I liked to watch film, but it was to see what I was doing. You need to see what the other guy is going to do.”
East fans see that their favorite team is churning toward a shot at the state championship and Jones is a big part of that push.
“I would say that it’s not every day that you get to play with a kid of his caliber,” Cowan said. “But, then, we’re used to see him make plays that ‘wow’ you.”
Through eight games, Jones has gained 1,441 yards with 25 touchdowns rushing. He has one touchdown receiving.
It followed a season in which he had 1,610 yards rushing in 13 games.
“Last year really was a coming-out season,” Jones said. “People in the (Hoosier Hills Conference) started to know my name. People in the state started to know my name.”
With a year remaining, the interest is bound to grow.
“He has strength you haven’t seen before,” Cowan said. “It is freakish.”
It’s not freakish that the No 1-ranked 4A Olympians (8-0) have meshed so well this season.
“It is weird, and hard to explain,” Jones said. “We’ve always had good teams. I just think we are super close this year. We’re all in.”
Jones and Cowan always get invited to the offensive linemen dinner that on Tuesdays. They make sure they get there.
“We had a great line last year, but this year they are mostly seniors, and they are mean,” Jones said. “Our guys always are working hard. They might not be the biggest, but they know that you can beat a guy who is stronger and bigger.”
Cowan said Jones feels comfortable hanging out with any unit on the team.
“He is just another kid on the team,” Cowan said. “He doesn’t care if you are a starter or not, he will talk to you.
“And Markell is the loudest kid we have on the team. He likes to talk, which is good.”
On Friday afternoons following school, Jones isn’t the one doing the talking. His dad pulls up and the younger Jones jumps in the car.
“I bring him something to eat after school and we go over stuff,” Jym Jones said. “I give him a pep talk.”
The younger Jones knows it is one of those bonding moments.
“My father loves it,” he said. “He likes to give me teaching points. He will talk to me about what I have to do.”
His father has watched him do it on a football field ever since his first year of tackle football in fifth grade.
“He couldn’t carry the football because they had a weight limit, and he was a big kid,” his father said. “But we were playing a team from Kokomo that didn’t have that weight limit, so they let Markell return a kickoff. I remember that the ball sailed over his head back to the 10-yard line and I thought it was going to be a disaster. But he ran back and picked the ball up, then went down the sideline for a touchdown. It was the first time I saw him touch the ball.”
Fortunately for East fans, it won’t be the last.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.