Wide receiver Charlie Jones becoming reliable option for Hawkeye football

The Buffalo transfer is a top pass-catching option for Iowa, while also serving as the team’s best returner.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa wide receiver Charlie Jones catches a ball for a touchdown during a football game between No. 10 Iowa and No. 9 Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Jerod Ringwald/The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

AMES — Charlie Jones is all about confidence.

And not just the type of confidence that prevents him from calling a fair catch even with opposing players nearby, but the confidence that allows him to transfer from a Mid-American program and walk on at Iowa with the hopes of becoming a contributing wide receiver and lethal special teams player. Well, Jones’ confidence has paid off.

The then-No. 10 Hawkeyes took down the then-No. 9 Cyclones, 27-17, in the most anticipated Cy-Hawk game in series history behind Jones’s 144 all-purpose yards — including the first receiving touchdown of his Hawkeye career.

With one minute left in the first half, Jones made a leaping 26-yard touchdown grab from Hawkeye quarterback Spencer Petras after beating out double coverage with a post route to the middle of the field. The score put Iowa up, 14-3, en route to the team’s sixth consecutive win over Iowa State.

“That’s one of our base plays,” Jones said of the touchdown. “When I lined up, I knew that it was going to be an option for us. Spencer made a perfect throw to a spot that only I could get it so yeah, it was a great play.”

“It’s really just Charlie beating the man that’s responsible for him,” Petras added. “… The guys up front protected well. It’s a huge play against a really, really good defense. It was just well executed.”

To add to his total, Jones recorded 44 yards off Cyclone kickoff returns and 64 yards off punts on Saturday afternoon.

Jones started his college football career at the University of Buffalo, part of the Mid-American Conference, in 2017 as a wide receiver and kick returner. After two years with the Bulls, he transferred to Iowa as a walk-on in 2019 — sitting out his entire first season as a Hawkeye because of NCAA transfer rules.

But when Jones took to the field in 2020 as the Hawkeyes’ main kick return specialist, he led the Big Ten with a 10.5-yard return average — good for first-team All-Big Ten return specialist honors from Phil Steele.

RELATED: Grading the Iowa football team’s 27-17 win over Iowa State

“It’s definitely been a long journey,” Jones said. “But we’re not done yet, we’re just getting started… I took a risk leaving Buffalo, I’m excited my hard work is paying off, but I still have a lot more to prove.”

Jones has shown himself deserving of an expanded role as a Hawkeye wide receiver. Jones, from Illinois, started the 2021 season in the two-deep in the wide receiver room, behind juniors Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Nico Ragaini.

Through two games, Jones is second on the Hawkeye leaderboard with 38 receiving yards behind junior tight end Sam LaPorta — topping Tracy Jr. and Ragaini, who have 27 and 21, respectively.

Jones’ first reception of the season came on a crucial fourth-and-2 play against Indiana, and his third was his first touchdown in the Black and Gold.

“It was a year ago last fall when we realized what kind of returner [Jones] was and the capabilities he has that way,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He did a great job all season long with the return game. It started with judgement, really good judgement with the ball, so he has a lot of courage back there because that’s a tough position.”

“We’ve been able to watch him in practice just evolve, continue to evolve, and become a good receiver,” Ferentz added. “He was OK last year, but now he’s really fitting into our offense.”

For Jones, his success is all about confidence — and his roommate, sophomore punter Tory Taylor, who helps him prepare every week.

“I think it all comes down to confidence,” Jones said. “Confidence in the way I prepare in the offseason. Tory, we’re always out there and he’s punting to me. Confidence in the guys that I have blocking. They take this stuff seriously, and they really work hard at it, and it gives me confidence.”

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