The former Alabama prep star scores a dramatic winner for the Patriots

Former Enterprise High School star Marcus Jones returned six kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns while playing for Troy and Houston to win a share of the NCAA FBS career record for TD returns.

On Sunday, the rookie cornerback scored his first NFL touchdown on an 84-yard punt return for the New England Patriots. Not only was it the first punt return for a touchdown this season in the NFL, it came just five seconds into the Patriots’ AFC East game against the New York Jets and led New England to a 10-3 win.

“I thought they were trying to throw it out because of the time on the clock.” said Jones. “The first thing I tried to do was make sure I was following my teammates’ blocks. Then I saw the punter and thought, ‘If I miss him, I should be able to go the distance.’”

The Jets offensive managed just 103 yards in the game. The Patriots gained 297 yards as quarterback Mac Jones completed 23 of 27 passes. But the former Alabama All-American was also fired by six different jets as neither offensive could reach the end zone.

Marcus Jones handled it after he set up the game’s 17th punt – a 52-yarder from Braden Mann – at the New England 16-yard line and raced through the New York coverage team to give the Patriots their 14th. Back-to-back win over the Jets.

“It’s one of those situations where I’m definitely happy about the division win,” said Jones, “Well, that’s the main thing and now it’s on to the next week. I am one of those people.”

Jones, who was drafted a third round in the NFL Draft on April 29, went into the rookie with an average of 13.4 yards on 13 punt returns and an NFL-best 24.3 yards on 14 kickoff returns game on Sunday.

“Marcus is really fast,” said the New England coach said Bill Belichick, “and I think (wide receiver/returns coach) Troy Brown did a great job with him. Where Marcus was when he got here and where he is now is a sea apart. Troy did a really good job of catching the ball, handling the ball, first player misses, ball safety, setting up blocks, seeing the ball and gunner, wind and so on. Marcus, we felt earlier this year that he wasn’t quite ready. We went with Myles (Bryant). Then as Marcus got better and gained more experience and confidence and then performed well, he’s now managed the entire second leg for a couple of weeks. …

“Marcus has been working hard and really improving. And he had a number of great returns for us. But going home today – perhaps the first in the league this year – was obviously a big play and a great effort by the punt return team to get Marcus going.

In New England’s first nine games of the season, Jones was on the field for 75 defensive snaps and 75 special teams plays.

After earning All-State Recognition honorable mention at Enterprise in 2015, Jones received ASWA First Team honors in 2016 when he intercepted five passes, returned three punts, a kickoff and a fumble recovery for touchdowns, and also caught a TD pass.

Jones continued to play all field after high school.

Last season at Houston, Jones recorded 47 tackles, intercepted two passes, rushed for 15 kickoffs for an average of 34.0 yards and two touchdowns, returned 26 punts for an average of 14.4 yards and two touchdowns, and caught 10 Passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

The Associated Press selected Jones as a first-team All-American cornerback, and he received matching All-American recognition in the all-purpose/return specialist slot. Jones’ versatile performance earned him the 2021 Paul Hornung Award for the nation’s most versatile player.

Between Enterprise and Houston, Jones played two seasons at Troy. He was the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year when he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.

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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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