OL Mike Jones Named Midwest Player of Year

Usually when trying to name a player of the year candidate, the first position that comes to mind is quarterback or running back but 2003 was a little different. Although there were several worthy candidates on both sides of the ball, we've decided that an offensive tackle is worthy of the honor this year.

Oak Lawn (Ill.) Richards offensive lineman Mike Jones is the Midwestrecruits.com Player of the Year.

Jones has been the best offensive lineman in Illinois the past three seasons and he was one of the "Top 5" offensive lineman in the nation in 2002.

Mike Jones was named to several All-America teams, including, USA-Today, CNNSI.com and Parade. His work ethic, technique and tenacity on the football field are unmatched.

One just needs to look at the game film of this year's Army All-American Bowl to see how dominant Jones is and will be on the college level. Jones manhandled Xavier Lawson-Kennedy the entire game.

"Mike (Jones) is the best football player I've coached in 30 plus years," said Richards head coach Gary Korhonen.

"I have four kids in NFL and none of them had the talent that Mike has. Mike's brother (Jim Jones) went to Notre Dame and started for two and a half years. He was Notre Dame's strongest player and the Baltimore Ravens think enough of Jim to send him to Europe and keep him on the roster.

"With all due respect to Jim (Jones), Mike has more talent, he's bigger, quicker and stronger. I think you'll see Mike playing on Sunday, no doubt about it."

Mike Jones had the upper hand in the recruiting process. Big brother had went through the process and he told Mike what to expect and he never wavered from his plan.

"People tell me all the time that Mike is to quiet," Korhonen said. "I tell them that maybe he is. He's only said about 10 words to me in four years but that doesn't mean anything.

"Mike Jones was the most mature football player I've been around in my coaching career. He handled the pressure of recruiting extremely well.

"I'm an old school coach and I lightened up a lot this year because I knew Mike knew how to handle himself. We actually had a television crew in our huddle during the year because they wanted to get a shot of Mike breaking the huddle. Back in the day, I would have never let that happen.

"Mike followed his recruiting plan to a "T". He was marketable enough that he wasn't going to be pushed around.

"With all due respect to the coaches at Michigan and I've dealt with everyone from Schembechler on down, Michigan can be pushy and pressure kids at times. They (Michigan) wanted Mike to make a decision in December and he just wasn't ready.

"When the dust settled it was the Iowa coaching staff and the offensive line that won Mike over. Eric Steinbach (Providence Catholic) is from this area and he's going to be picked high in the draft. Iowa had an outstanding offensive line this year and they have a great teacher in the offensive line with coach Ferentz."

Congratulations to Mike Jones and best of luck in Iowa City. As for Gary Korhonen and Richards High School, no rest for the wicked, Korhonen will have one of the nations most sought after quarterbacks in 2003.

Sean Lewis, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound, gunslinger already has several schools interested and he'll be a candidate this summer for the prestigious "Elite 11" quarterbacks camp.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories