Charlie Jones Named Big Ten Returner of the Year

By RossWB on December 2, 2021 at 3:03 pm
© Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Moss wasn't the only Iowa player earn awards honors this week. Special teams has been a critical part of Iowa's success the last few seasons, and especially this year, when the Iowa offense has needed all the help it can get to move down the field and, uh, score points. Fortunately, they've had a dynamic return man able to provide exactly that needed assistance game after game. So it came as no surprise that Charlie Jones was honored as the top return man in the Big Ten and the winner of the Rodgers-Dwight Returner of the Year Award: 

Jones is the second Iowa player to win the award -- named in honor of Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers and legendary Hawkeye returner Tim Dwight -- after Ihmir Smith-Marsette received the award back in 2018. 

Jones was second in the Big Ten in punt return average at 8.5 yards per return (behind Michigan's A.J. Henning at 9.3 yards per return), but no one returned more punts than Charlie. He returned 34 punts during the season, eight more than the next-highest total by a Big Ten player (26, by Henning). In fact, no one in the entire NCAA attempted as many punt returns as Jones did this season; Henning and Utah's Britain Covey attempted the next-most returns, at 26 punt returns apiece. 

Of course, Jones was not just a one-return pony, either. He excelled at returning kickoffs as much as he did returning punts. He was second in the Big Ten in punt return average at 26.3 yards per return (behind Ohio State's Emeka Egbuka at 32.1 yards per return), but again: no one attempted more kickoff returns than Charlie "BY GOD" Jones, who returned 23 kickoffs during the regular season (Michigan State's Jayden Reed had the next-highest total, with 16 returns.) Only a handful of players in the NCAA returned more kickoffs than Jones did, although shouts to Arkansas State's Alan Lamar, who returned 55 (!) kickoffs this season. Dude never met a kickoff he didn't feel like returning. 

Kickoff returns was also where Jones had his greatest moment as a return man this season; his electrifying 100-yard return against Illinois changed the momentum of that game and put Iowa on the path toward earning a comeback victory.

Jones finished second in the NCAA in combined kick return yards this season, racking up 893 yards across a total of 57 punt and kickoff returns. (Only the aforementioned Lamar had more combined kick return yards with 1,333 total yards, but all of his came via his 55 kickoff returns.) Charlie Jones didn't meet many kicks he didn't want to return and, more often than not, that turned out to be a pretty good decision for Iowa football. Iowa needed all the help it could get in the field position battle this season, so a few extra yards here and there -- and sometimes many more -- from Jones on special teams were hugely appreciated. 

You were big time this year, Charlie Jones. Congratulations on being named the Big Ten Returner of the Year, a richly deserved honor after a great season of work.

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