Purdue transfer Jones is back in Big Ten title game

- Sam King

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – While this week will be a new experience for the Purdue football team, it is not for the Boilermake­rs’ star wide receiver.

Charlie Jones was here one year ago, competing in the Big Ten Championsh­ip Game with the Iowa Hawkeyes, against the same Michigan Wolverines.

Jones returns to Lucas Oil Stadium in a much different role, however.

The transfer from Iowa had four catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 30-16 win over Indiana, securing the Big Ten West Division championsh­ip for Purdue and punching the Boilers’ ticket to the Big Ten title game for the first time.

“I am excited. It’s awesome coming here being at Purdue,” Jones said after the win over Indiana. “You get another opportunit­y to be in the Big Ten championsh­ip.”

Jones was a prominent piece of Iowa’s Big Ten West title a year ago, but mostly on special teams. He was part of a receiver two-pack Purdue picked up from Iowa, along with redshirt senior Tyrone Tracy, who has 26 catches for 185 yards and 87 rushing yards on 11 carries this season after 66 receptions for 871 yards and five touchdowns in four years with the Hawkeyes.

Jones was the conference’s Return Specialist of the Year, won Iowa’s special teams MVP honor and was firstteam All-Big Ten as a returner specialist.

“Last year we thought he was the best returner we ever played and now he’s taken his game to a huge level at Purdue as a receiver,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

But Jones wanted to be a difference­maker as a receiver, and at Iowa he wasn’t being utilized much on offense. He had 23 catches for 323 yards last season.

Jones entered the transfer portal and, after some persuading from Jones’ childhood friend Aidan O’Connell, coach Jeff Brohm targeted him as someone who could help Purdue’s receiving corps in Jones’ final year of eligibilit­y.

“Charlie is a guy who had to earn his stripes, starting in Buffalo and then Iowa and then he even wanted to prove himself more,” Brohm said. “We were fortunate he had a relationsh­ip with Aidan O’Connell. We had an idea he could be a pretty good player, but we had no idea he could do this. We’d seen him return kicks.

“Aidan swore by him once he got into the portal.”

No one expected this though.

Not Brohm. Not O’Connell. Probably not even Jones.

Ninety-seven receptions, 1,199 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns later, Jones isn’t just a piece of a team playing for the Big Ten title, but the main offensive weapon for a team that is.

With two games remaining – the Big Ten Championsh­ip Game and a bowl game to be determined – Jones has an outside chance to rack up the best single season statistica­lly of any receiver in Purdue history.

Three players – Chris Daniels (121 in 1999), Rondale Moore (114 in 2018) and Rodney Carter (98 in 1985) – have caught more passes in a season for the Boilermake­rs.

Five have more receiving yards in a season: John Standeford (1,307 in 2002), David Bell (1,286 in 2021), Moore (1,258 in 2018), Daniels (1,236 in 1999) and Brian Alford (1,228 in 1997).

And only three have more touchdown catches: Taylor Stubblefie­ld (16 in 2004), Vinny Sutherland (13 in 2000) and Standeford (13 in 2002).

“From Day 1 when we saw him, yeah the guy can play football,” Brohm said. “This guy has been injured all year long. He’s battled knees, ankles, toes. Some weeks he didn’t hardly practice at all. He comes out here and he just makes plays.

“He did what he wanted to do. He wanted to come somewhere and proved how good of a receiver he is.” But Jones wants to do more. He wants to give Purdue its first Big Ten football championsh­ip since 2000.

“There were ups and downs this season. Some things were out of our control, like (Iowa losing to Nebraska Friday, opening the door for Purdue to advance to the conference championsh­ip), and then (Saturday) come out here in a game like this and win and be able to have that opportunit­y to go to Indy next week, it’s awesome,” said Jones, who had two catches for 41 yards in last year’s Big Ten Championsh­ip Game.

 ?? MARC LEBRYK/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones catches a long pass for a TD against Indiana.
MARC LEBRYK/ USA TODAY SPORTS Purdue wide receiver Charlie Jones catches a long pass for a TD against Indiana.

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