With wide receiver Rakim Jarrett sidelined, it was Jeshaun Jones who stepped up in what would prove to be a career day in possibly his last game inside ‘The Shell.’ Jones finished with nine catches for 152 yards, both career-highs, while adding a touchdown in the 37-0 win over Rutgers. Jones was among the 18 seniors who were honored during pregame ceremonies, giving him a chance to “leave my mark” one last time.
“This could possibly be my last game in The Shell and I just wanted to go out, have fun with my brothers,” Jones said following the win. After entering Saturday second on the team in receptions, his performance now ties him with Jarrett with 40 receptions on the season while the Florida native now leads the team with four receiving touchdowns. Saturday’s performance also captured a fitting moment as the 37-yard touchdown strike from Taulia Tagovailoa to Jones vaulted the veteran Terps quarterback to number one all time in career passing yards.
As the camera panned to Tagovailoa and Jones raising their hands together, soaking in the career highlight, Jones reflected on what the veteran quarterback has provided to the offense over the last three seasons. “After going through everything I’ve been through and him coming here, having the success that he’s had, getting to be a part of that record for him. It means a lot to me and I know how hard he works and how much he actually deserves, things like that, so it was just a great moment for the both of us.”
The good news is that both Tagovailoa and Jones have an opportunity to return in 2023, marking what would be the sixth college season for Jones. Tagovailoa deflected on where he stands on a potential return, briefly stating “just focusing on this team” with the bowl game left standing in the way of the offseason. For Jones, though, he entertained the idea of one more season but will hold off on a final decision. “I’ve got a lot of questions about it, but I’ve tried to wait until now and the coming weeks before the bowl game and stuff, after it’ll probably be discussed,” he added.
Head coach Mike Locksley made his pitch clear during his postgame remarks. “My first recruiting job is to recruit Jeshaun to come back and play,” Locksley said. “He has another COVID year. I know it’s something he’s entertaining. This guy shows the toughness that you want, the resiliency, all pillars of our program and he’s a guy that leaves it all on the field. I was really happy to see him be able to have the type of game today, coming off of two ACLs. The way he came and entered here with big game against Texas. It was great to see him play the way he played today and hopefully it’s a precursor for what things look like next year for him if he decides to come back.”
If that’s it for the Florida native after the bowl game, it marks a college career that few would’ve imagined. It started with former assistant Chris Beatty, who was persistent with the three-star athlete throughout his recruitment. That gave Jones the opportunity to make the move north alongside his teammate and close friend Fa’Najae Gotay, where they played through the Matt Canada season and stuck with the program following Locksley’s hire. Jones has watched two seasons derailed due to injury and made a full recovery both times. Now, he’ll get a chance to close out his season with a second consecutive bowl with his teammates before making a final decision.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, the good and the bad. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I stuck it out and I love my team. I love this organization, I love the people here and I appreciate everything that the University of Maryland has done for me.”