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AMES — After a lot of time and effort spent on the recruiting trail, Matt Campbell saw himself as the odd man out.
As the head coach at Toledo, Campbell spent a lot of time pursuing the quarterback from Colerain High School in Cincinnati. Then Michigan and Ohio State came to the school and Campbell’s target was squarely in their mix — although neither offered.
Not until Campbell got to Ames last November was he able to secure the target he had sought for so long.
That’s how freshman wide receiver Deshaunte Jones ended up at Iowa State.
“(I) had a really good relationship with him, his mother, and tried to keep that going and I think it really helped us when we got here,” Campbell said.
That diligence in the pursuit of Jones already has paid dividends on the field.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has two of the Cyclones’ three longest plays from scrimmage this season and has five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games.
“He’s a young guy and he needed that probably more than anyone,” said quarterback Joel Lanning. “To have some confidence there with him and saying, ‘OK I scored and now I can just go play and not have to worry about it.’”
And he’s still getting adjusted to playing wide receiver. Jones was primarily a quarterback throughout high school.
“I’ve seen it out of Deshaunte since he got here,” said quarterback Jacob Park. “I think you guys are just seeing it now. I’ve got just as much trust in Deshaunte for him to do his job as Allen Lazard or (Dondre Daley).
“To me he’s a veteran. He makes veteran decisions and veteran moves. He’s a hell of player.”
Jones was a four-star recruit by Scout, the No. 2 wide receiver in Ohio and No. 6 in the Midwest. He was the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Division 1 Player of the Year, an AP first-team all-state honoree and a finalist for Ohio’s Mr. Football.
As a senior quarterback at Colerain, Jones completed 46 passes for 785 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 1,860 yards on 9.4 yards per carry. When he got to Iowa State and moved to the “M” wide receiver — essentially in the slot — there was plenty to learn, but playing quarterback made the transition somewhat natural.
“We’ve had guys that have played that position before that were high school quarterbacks,” said offensive coordinator Tom Manning. “They just have a little bit of an innate way to find some space and kind of have some instincts there.
“There’s a lot of things that are on his plate, but he’s just been able to keep working hard and kind of sticking with it. I think he’s really now grasping everything we’re trying to do offensively.”
Jones, as with all true freshmen, isn’t allowed to speak to the media, but his teammates have learned he has a more quiet personality anyway.
“He listens to what you say and when you talk to him he looks in your eyes,” Park said. “He doesn’t talk much and he wants to learn. Those are the kind of guys you want.
“There are a lot of egos and things like that, especially when guys are high profile. I was guilty of it myself. When you come in as a freshman you think you know everything and he was the complete opposite.”
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