Markell Jones wants to be a pilot, and with all the trips he’s made to West Lafayette in the past year, he could have used a license and a plane.
Jones and his family expect to make plenty of trips to West Lafayette in the next five years. The Columbus East running back announced Tuesday that he has committed to play football at Purdue.
“My dad visited up there (Monday) and got the academic side squared away. After that, it was a no-brainer. I’ve been up there so many times and have gotten familiar with the offense. I kind of sat down and figured out what kind of running back I can be in their offense.”
The 5-foot-9, 204-pound Jones has been a standout running back in the Olympians’ offense the past two years. As a junior, he ran for 2,653 yards and 42 touchdowns in leading East to the Class 4A state championship.
Along with Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell, Jones had talked extensively with running backs coach Jafar Williams and tight ends coach Gerad Parker, who recruits this area.
“It’s more of a power running game, downhill, similar to what we do at East,” Jones said. “It won’t be too much different, just blocking schemes.”
Purdue was the second school to offer Jones a scholarship, just after Toledo. He later got offers from Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, Ball State and Indiana State.
Jones said his top three were Purdue, Ball State and Western Michigan. He called the three schools Tuesday to inform them of his decision.
“They understand that it’s a business,” Jones said. “I had to make the decision that was good for me. The hardest part was the relationship that I had built up with (the other schools).”
Jones plans to graduate from East in December and begin taking classes at Purdue in January. He said committing before the season will help take some of the load off his shoulders for his senior season.
“It wasn’t really a burden, but it was definitely something that I had a lot of questions,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to the season at Columbus East High School.”
Especially with the commitment to a Big Ten school, Jones figures to be a front-runner for the 2014 Mr. Football award. But his biggest goal is to lead the Olympians to another state title.
“Do the same thing I did last year — just keep running with the same aggression, if not more,” Jones said. “With our coaching staff, we’ll be fine again. We lost a lot of guys, but we’ll be OK. I’m definitely looking forward to trying to repeat.”