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Column: Landing Jones important symbolically, ya feel me?

When Jeff Jones straps on his shoulder pads, dons the maroon and gold and hits the turf at TCF Bank Stadium for the first time, he won’t just be living out his dream.

He’ll be living out the dream of every Gophers football fan who envisions a day when the state’s best recruits stay home.

The four-star recruit’s commitment and its subsequent impact could be more meaningful than anything he ever accomplishes on the gridiron. And we’re talking about a helluva football player.

Jones just made the University of Minnesota a cool place to play for kids in state.

After initially committing last year, Jones seemed to be on the radar of almost every program nationally. As an Under Armour All-American, Jones fielded offers from top-tier SEC schools.

“Deep down, all along he’s wanted to play in his home state,” head coach Jerry Kill said. “He told me that when he was a freshman, but again, you get all that around you, you get influenced. … We worked at it and stayed with it.”

And in turn, Jones didn’t waver in his commitment.

Now, he’s one of the highest-rated recruits in Minnesota football history.

“As a Minnesota kid that’s from here, growing up here, I wouldn’t feel right going to Michigan,” Jones said.

Kill whiffed on the state’s second- and third-ranked prospects this year, but landing Jones makes up for those swings and misses. If Jones’ decision resonates the way he thinks it will, there won’t be many more swings and misses.

“I wanted to be one of the guys to start the hometown challenge to stay home,” Jones said. “Hopefully, other kids behind me will realize that staying at home is not a bad idea.”

Savvy college football fans know how crucial sealing off the borders is — especially for Minnesota, a school entrenched in a winter wonderland.

Of the Midwestern schools, only legendary programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame have the allure to pluck top kids from all over the nation. Archrival Wisconsin, similar to Minnesota in climate, built itself into a national power by hanging on to the state’s top players.

The best high school players in the country usually don’t want to spend four years in minus 20-degree temperatures.

The climate won’t be a problem for Jones, a Minneapolis native.

While it should still be David Cobb’s backfield next season and the senior-to-be deserves at least 300 carries, Jones should get his touches as well.

Jones is the crown jewel in the Big Ten’s eighth-ranked recruiting class. That’s not stellar by any means, but it’s better than it was in 2013.

Thanks to Jones, though, the 2015 recruiting class might be Kill’s best one yet.

Ya feel me?

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