Malin Jones reports to Northwestern for summer school on Sunday, and the incoming freshman running back can't wait to get his college career started.
"I've been ready for a while," the former Joliet (Ill.) Catholic star said.
Jones is one of 21 Class of 2012 signees who will be taking summer school classes and working out with the team this summer. That's unlike previous years, when budget constraints limited the Wildcats to enroll just a handful of players in classes.
Wildcat coaches used to carefully select the three to five players that they thought could make an impact as true freshman to go to summer school. Now, the entire incoming class will get the benefit of getting acclimated to college classes, as well as taking part in organized team workouts.
Jones, like most of the recruits, will be taking two courses for the summer quarter, which begins on Monday. In his case, it will be Highlights of Astronomy and History of African-American Children's Literature.
Team workouts begin on Monday, as well.
While many seniors coast through the last months of high school, Jones spent his spring at Joliet Catholic working out -- hard. He followed the prescribed conditioning program sent by Northwestern director of football performance Jay Hooten, and, with the blessing of Hooten, combined it with that of the regimen he followed on JCA's powerlifting team.
In particular, Jones wanted to focus on his first step and "explosion" ability, and the results have been positive. Jones packed on a few pounds to bump his weight to 210 pounds, and he says he's in the best shape of his life.
"That was the goal, to get in better shape than I've ever been going in [to the summer], and then, hopefully, setting myself apart once I'm there," he said.
At a running back position depleted by injury and attrition, Jones has a good chance to make a significant contribution next fall. Of Northwestern's top four backs in 2011, only one (sophomore Treyvon Green) returns fully healthy. Two are gone (Jacob Schmidt graduated and Adonis Smith transferred) and one (junior Mike Trumpy) is coming off of an ACL tear.
Jones was Northwestern's first commitment of the 2012 class, giving coach Pat Fitzgerald his verbal pledge in October of 2010, halfway through his junior season and more than 20 months before he will set foot in Evanston as a student.
He has used that time to get himself prepared for college football, as well as build a bond with his fellow class members.
Jones has met more than half of his fellow recruits while on campus for games, practices or visits over the last year-plus. They have a group on Facebook, and Jones says that he communicates with several signees on a regular basis.
"It's something I'm looking forward to, getting to know a whole new group of friends," he said. "Some of them I'll probably be friends with the rest of my life. I look forward to that. It know it's tough living away from home and leaving [high school] friends behind, but I'm excited about it."
Jones is a rather serious sort, and he likes to set goals for himself. He has clear objectives for this summer, as well as his freshman season.
"This summer, I just want to get my feet wet with classes, and getting in even better shape during summer workouts," he said.
"Next season, I just want to play. I'd be very discouraged if I redshirt. If it's the best for the team, [I will do it]. But I don't want to redshirt. I want to be able to play."
Jones will take the first steps toward achieving those goals on Sunday.