BLOOMINGTON — When Indiana senior linebacker Reakwon Jones scooped up a fumble and returned it 17 yards on the opening play of IU’s 35-0 win over Rutgers, it brought a range of emotions.
Jones was happy for his first career college touchdown, but it also allowed him to reflect on the growth he’s made the last 12 months, on and off the field.
A little more than a year ago, on Oct. 7, 2018, Jones learned his family home in Lynn Haven, Fla., was destroyed after Hurricane Michael and its 150 mph winds ripped through the Florida panhandle.
Jones said dealing with the year anniversary brought back memories.
“Thinking back to a few days ago, last year I didn’t have a home back home and all of my stuff was destroyed,” Jones said. “So it made me feel a little emotional there, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
The IU community rallied around Jones, sponsoring fundraisers and fundraising drives to support Hurricane Michael relief.
“Our team loves him because he’s persevered,” IU coach Tom Allen said.
Jones was one of several standouts on IU’s defense Saturday, finishing with a sack to go along with a fumble recovery that led to IU’s second defensive touchdown of the season. Jones said his family is still in an apartment but contractors are working to rebuild the house in Lynn Haven.
“Just looking at it now, we’re just thankful to be here,” Jones said.
“Thankful to for them to be in a stable environment right now and just thankful for everything.”
IU sophomore defensive lineman Demarcus Elliot, who forced the fumble Jones recovered, said Jones has served a strong leader for the defense as a fifth-year senior.
“He cares about every one of us,” Elliott said.
“It doesn’t matter if you take 80 snaps or one snap. He’s a great guy, and for him to be able to make this play on this one-year anniversary, it means the world to him. I know it does, and it also means the world to me because I look up to him. He’s what I’m trying to be, a leader for this team.”
Allen said following the game junior defensive lineman Juan Harris has decided to retire from football and leave the team. Harris has been dealing with injuries on and off this season.
“He’s chosen to no longer play football,” Allen said. “He informed us of that. It’s not what I expected, but I wish him nothing but the best.”
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. continued to feed the ball to his favorite target, junior wide receiver Whop Philyor, on Saturday.
Philyor had 10 catches for 180 yards, becoming the first IU receiver since Ricky Jones in 2016 to post back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. Philyor had 14 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns in IU’s last game two weeks ago against Michigan State.
Philyor’s two-game stretch of 24 catches is the most over a two-game stretch in school history and his 326 yards are the second-most. Philyor said he and Penix share a strong bond on and off the field.
“We play Fortnite and (NBA)2K a lot together,” Philyor said. “We watch film while we are playing. We just talk about the little things to get us going. We trust each other on and off the field.”
Indiana improved to 45-56-6 in homecoming games and picked up its first homecoming win since beating Arkansas State 36-34 in 2010. … Don Croftcheck (2008 IU Hall of Famer, OL/LB), Cody Latimer (New York Giants WR, 2011-13), Rhett Lewis (NFL Network, WR, 2002-05) and Terry Tallen (LB, 1978-80) served as IU’s honorary captains.