Florida International U

This Panthers player’s return to the field gives FIU a boost for final stretch

FIU running back Anthony Jones (2) picks up yards during the Panthers game against FAU on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. It was Jones first game back.
FIU running back Anthony Jones (2) picks up yards during the Panthers game against FAU on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. It was Jones first game back. mocner@miamiherald.com

When FIU running back Anthony Jones ran out of the tunnel and into the lights this past Saturday night for the start of the Florida Atlantic game, it was symbolic of what his life has been like lately.

This past Tuesday marked exactly two months since things got really dark for him and teammate Mershawn Miller as they were the victims of a drive-by shooting in Opa-Locka, according to police reports.

Miller, who could return as soon as this Saturday night when FIU (6-3, 4-1) visits Texas-San Antonio (3-6, 2-3), was shot in the arm. Jones was shot in the face and the back, and there were serious concerns for his life, not just his career.

Thankfully, Jones survived.

Fortunately, the light has returned to his life.

Miraculously, or so it seems, he made it back on the field in this same season, running for 31 yards on eight carries against FAU.

“I’m just excited to be out there with my teammates,” Jones said. “I can’t ask for more. That means the best to me, being out there, running out of the tunnel with the guys.”

FIU coach Butch Davis said Jones’ teammates were thrilled when doctors gave him the “thumbs up” to return to action.

“Our kids love him,” Davis said. “He’s a terrific player.

“When the incident happened, it was an act of God for him and Mershawn to be alive. For those two kids to come from where they were, it’s an amazing thing.”

Jones said he spent five days in the hospital — but he wasn’t alone.

“They actually had to put me in my own hospital room,” Jones said. “I had too many [visitors].

“When [FIU] won the Old Dominion game, [his teammates] all signed a ball and brought it the hospital for me. Every day, there were guys rushing to the hospital [to see me]. That strengthened me.

“[The toughest part was] not being [on the field] with my brothers. I’ve been playing football since I was four years old. Football brings a brotherhood.

“I got real brothers on this team. They were at the hospital each and every day, and they will be brothers for the rest of my life.”

Jones, who said he feels “healthy and 100 percent”, is obviously tougher than most.

“I wasn’t really scared,” Jones said of the shooting. “I was just thanking God that the injury wasn’t [worse]. I just want to move forward with my teammates.”

THIS AND THAT

If FIU wins its remaining three games, it will win the East Division and play for the Conference USA title. Of those three remaining opponents, only one has a winning record, Marshall (5-3, 3-2), and the Thundering Herd has to visit FIU in the regular-season finale on Nov. 24.

Middle Tennessee (6-3, 5-1) leads FIU by a half-game in the East standings with two conference games remaining: at lowly UTEP (1-8, 1-4) and at home against league power Alabama-Birmingham (8-1, 6-0).

FIU owns a key tiebreaker because of its 24-21 victory over Middle Tennessee on Oct. 13.

FIU quarterback James Morgan, who had two touchdown passes against FAU, is tied with North Texas’ Mason Fine for the Conference USA lead with 21 TD throws this season. Morgan also tied Alex McGough’s single-season FIU record of 21 TD passes.

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