Nearly two months ago, senior running back Anthony Jones was being airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital. He and freshman offensive lineman Mershawn Miller had just been seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting. While Miller was shot in the arm and would be released overnight, Jones was in critical condition; a bullet had passed through the back of his shoulder, grazed his neck and exited in the cheekbone area. There were no assurances that he would play football again.
On Saturday night, Jones completed a miraculous comeback and returned to the FIU backfield. The South Florida native had eight carries for 31 yards in FAU’s 49-14 victory over the Panthers.
“I’m excited to be out there with my teammates. They are my brothers actually. They were at the hospital each and every day and I can’t ask for more. I’m just excited to be out here. That means the most to me right there—just running out of that tunnel with the guys,” Jones said.
Jones’ teammates were by his side from the moment he was hospitalized. They visited him on Sept. 6 before a team trip to Norfolk, Virginia, to face Old Dominion University. The Panthers staged a 17-point comeback on the road to earn their first win of the year, then were back in the hospital to see Jones.
“When the guys won the Old Dominion game, they all signed the ball and brought it to the hospital for me. The whole time there were guys rushing in and out of the hospital. They had to put me in my own room because there were too many people,” Jones said.
The Miami Central High alumnus began working his way into playing shape once released from the hospital. Over the course of a few weeks, he graduated from light running to contact drills. In the week of practice leading up to the Shula Bowl, Jones showed the doctors enough to let him return to action.
“That was an amazing moment to have him come in and practicing this week,” said junior quarterback James Morgan. “It says not only a lot about him, but about the camaraderie of this team. We’re a family.”
The Panthers expect Miller, who was injured with Jones in Opa-Locka, to return to action this season, too. According to head coach Butch Davis, that may be as early as Nov. 10 against the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Other notes: Bryce Singleton makes a highlight
Wide receiver Bryce Singleton didn’t just lead all receivers in Saturday’s game with 97 yards—he led them in spectacle.
The sophomore turned heads when he extended to full vertical capacity to snag a one-handed touchdown from James Morgan. ESPN took note of the highlight and featured his 19-yard touchdown grab at No. 3 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.
It was a rewarding moment for Singleton, who missed most of the first half of the season with injuries. The touchdown tied the game at 14-14 in the second quarter.
“I was happy. I was more happy about getting [us] back in the game than anything,” Singleton said.
Still in control
The Panthers still control their own path to the Conference USA Championship, where the champion of the East Division plays the champion of the West Division.
If FIU wins its next three games (at University of Texas at San Antonio, at University of North Carolina at Charlotte and at home against Marshall University), then they guarantee a bid in the championship game.
Middle Tennessee State University is currently atop the East with a 5-1 conference (FIU dropped to 4-1 after Saturday’s loss); however, even if the Blue Raiders also win out, the Panthers hold a tie-breaker over them. FIU won the head-to-head matchup with Middle Tennessee on Oct. 13.
For more information about how the university community rallied behind Anthony Jones and Mershawn Miller, check out our conversation with Jones’ mom after the shooting.