Brandon Jones battled Marcus Cooper throughout the offseason for a starting spot at Rutgers. Jones made his mark in Saturday's 24-12 win at Tulane, taking a fourth-quarter interception 14 yards for a touchdown to break the game open. It was the cornerback's first touchdown since high school.
Jones dropped two other would-be interceptions earlier in the game, but the fact he was in position to make those plays speaks to how far he's come since last season, when he played with a fractured tibia. Now, the fifth-year senior is hoping to close his college career by helping his school accomplish a program-first: win a Big East title.
How nice was it to reach the end zone Saturday?
Brandon Jones: It was good to get my first career touchdown. It felt really good. And for it to be at a crucial point in the game, it made it feel even better.
Did you remember the feeling from high school?
BJ: Yeah, I remember it. It's nothing compared to high school; it's such a bigger stage. But I was happy to be able to help my teammates and help us win that game.
Did it make up for a couple of the earlier close calls?
BJ: I try not to say it made up for it because I was just playing the game like I'm told to do: Come down with the ball and hopefully next time I'll be able to get it. But yeah, I would just say that it was a much-needed play and it helped the team and it kind of did make up for the ones I did drop.
You revealed this week that you played through last season with a fractured tibia. Why?
BJ: I played because I knew my team needed me, and as long as the doctors and everybody said I was able to go, that's what I was going to do.
How much did that hurt?
BJ: It hurt a lot, it hurt a lot. It was very painful. I would not wish it upon anybody.
What part of your game did it limit the most?
BJ: I would say I wasn't able to break as fast as normal, and speed-wise, I couldn't get going as fast as I would like to. But that helped me mentally, because I had to get smarter in my game and I had to be there that much more mentally, because physically I wasn't as capable as I usually am.
When did you suffer the injury?
BJ: It happened during the summer. It initially started in the summer, and it progressively got worse, and by camp it was fractured.
What was the offseason recovery like?
BJ: I went into surgery with Khaseem Greene. We had surgery on the same day. And after that we just kind of grinded together in the training room and just made sure that we were doing the right things to get back as quickly as possible. And then once spring ball hit and I was able to go and I realized I was going to be back to myself, it was a good feeling.
How do you feel now?
BJ: I'm 100 percent. I'm ready to go.
Marcus Cooper has made strides in the past year. How have you two pushed each other?
BJ: Marcus is doing a great job right now and we're really close friends. We're best friends. We compete all the time. Not just on the field -- we're always together off the field. We're always competing with each other, so whether it's at the cornerback position or playing video games or while we're at the apartment, we push each other to try to make each other the best at everything.
How has Kyle Flood put his stamp on this program so far?
BJ: Coach Flood's doing a tremendous job, and I hope people could realize that on Saturday because you can tell guys are out there playing for him and flying around, playing fast. And that's what we need to do if we want to reach our ultimate goal, which is a Big East championship. So he's doing a great job and he's keeping everybody focused on what the goal is.
Looking forward to coming home Saturday?
BJ: Yeah, it was good to land back here in Jersey and practice here all week. And it should be exciting on Saturday. Hopefully we'll have a good turnout. I'm excited to see the fans show their support.
You've been there awhile. Any bucket list for this last hurrah?
BJ: Oh that's an easy one, a Big East championship. That's the goal. And it would be great to end this season with that trophy with my brothers, with my senior class I came in with, and that's what the whole summer was for. We worked to pursue that goal and we're still working to get that goal now.