Number 29 got the ball with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter of Penn sprint football’s home opener. With the Quakers already up, 7-0, the freshman running back looked like he wasn’t going to gain any yardage as multiple Franklin Pierce players made contact with him.
But he shocked everyone by fending off the defenders before reeling off another 20 yards into the end zone. With less than 10 minutes of collegiate play on the books, Max Jones had earned himself his first touchdown in elaborate fashion.
The 51-7 victory on Sept. 19 was plenty to celebrate for Penn. But what everyone noticed that day was that the Red and Blue had a new asset.
“He surprised everybody in attendance that day because of his talent,” coach Bill Wagner said. “It was a great run.”
Jones was one of the freshmen on the team Wagner actively sought out. In high school, Jones was a tremendous athlete in both track and football. Thanks to his lithe stature, the running back fell below the weight cutoff, thus qualifying for the Quakers’ sprint football squad.
“He had an outstanding high school career,” Wagner said. “He was one of the fastest kids in the 100-meter [dash] up in the New England area, and he attended several elite training camps where he was one of the standouts in all the various drills.”
He and fellow freshmen Jake Klaus are the Quakers’ two new running backs, and Wagner had high hopes for the duo entering the 2015 campaign.
“It was a no-brainer encouraging them, recruiting them to come to Penn,” Wagner said. “They both were doing tremendous in the preseason in the Chestnut Hill and alumni games.”
Heading into the Red and Blue’s first game, Wagner planned to utilize both running backs at various points. But after Jones and Klaus split series to begin the contest, an injury to Klaus opened up a chance for Jones to shine.
“Jake turned his ankle pretty bad and had a high sprain, and Max stepped up and became the number one running back,” Wagner said. “Obviously, [he] had a tremendous game against Franklin Pierce. For a freshman to do what he did in that first exposure to our league is incredible.”
In that first game, Jones racked up 125 yards rushing in the first half before finishing the game with 130. His second touchdown came at the end of a 65-yard run that opened the scoring in the second quarter.
Jones’ performance against the Ravens even earned him Collegiate Sprint Football League Offensive Player of the Week honors.
While Wagner and his staff certainly had high hopes for Jones and the rest of the freshman class, they have stepped up early and filled holes in the Red and Blue squad. Jones’ talent on the field and amiable personality off of it have allowed him to integrate well with the team.
“He’s got great speed, has good vision, is very coachable,” Wagner said. “And not only is [he] a good runner, but he can catch the ball and also block very well, which is important in our offense.”
Against Post, Jones’ skill was on display yet again, as he carried the ball 19 times for 48 yards in the Quakers’ 34-18 win.
“He had a great game again,” Wagner said. “He did a lot of blocking because we were throwing the ball a lot more, and then later in the game when we went to our running game he was able to pick up the yardage needed to take time off the clock.”
Through two games, Jones has shown off his talent and established himself as an integral part of Penn’s strategy while helping the Quakers to an undefeated start. If he continues to do so, there’s no doubt that he’ll be part of many more Penn victories in his tenure.
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