, Muskogee, OK

March 21, 2010

Country connection makes NSU fit for Wagoner native

By Kenton Brooks

Gus Jones is counting down the days to spring practice with a refreshed outlook.

Jones, who signed out of Wagoner High School last February to play at the University of Oklahoma, will take the field March 30 at Northeastern State University. He cited what might be considered a Division I level burnout in Norman after a redshirt season in 2009 when he transferred at mid-term to NSU.

“It was a great experience at OU, but it just wasn’t for me,” the 6-foot-2, 232-pounder said. “Why did I leave? I really didn’t fit in. I didn’t want to sit around and wait to play either, but it was tough to leave friends because I’d been with them for six to seven months.”

Jones won’t have to sit out after transferring to a Division II school.

“I really like it there,” he said of the Tahlequah campus. “There are a lot of country kids at NSU and there were very few at Oklahoma. I feel a lot more comfortable at NSU.”

The only person more comfortable than Jones is NSU coach Kenny Evans, who doesn’t hide his excitement about having the former all-state linebacker on his team.

“There’s no question that he has the ability to be a big-time player,” Evans said. “He needs to get out there on the field.”

Evans, entering his third season in Tahlequah, wants Jones to play at either middle linebacker or defensive end. He’s counting on Jones’ versatility.

“We’ll see where he helps the team the most and fits in,” Evans said. “Our deal is to put the best 22 players on the field. With all of the passing in today’s football, teams substitute ends for linebackers. When a team lines up four receivers, we’ll have four defensive backs but we’re still going to keep a four-man rush.

“Our scheme is similar to what he did at OU. It’ll be easy for Gus to pick up and learn. We want to utilize his talent.”

Jones, registering 138 tackles and six sacks in his all-state season of 2008, said it won’t be a problem for him to play either position.

“I’ve just been working out running and lifting weights,” he said. “The (NSU) coaches have us run for about an hour and then I do a little more on my own. I usually do footwork. I’m looking forward to being there.”

NSU’s spring game will be Saturday, April 24.