During Daniel Jones’ steady and quick recovery from a broken collarbone, the Duke quarterback received guidance from someone who’s been there before.
Anthony Boone and Jones were Facetiming by Sept. 9, the day after Jones suffered the injury during Duke’s 21-7 win at Northwestern.
Jones had surgery that day to repair his injured left clavicle. Five years earlier, Boone had suffered a broken right clavicle while playing quarterback for the Blue Devils.
Even in that first conversation, Boone could tell Jones would return as quickly as possible, perhaps quicker than even his coaches thought he could.
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“He’s a great kid,” Boone said this week. “He’s a helluva competitor. I fully expected a quick recovery. I knew he was going to do whatever it takes to get back on the field. The team is really important to him. Duke is really important to him.”
Following the surgery, Duke announced that Jones was out indefinitely. But the 6-5, 220-pound redshirt junior returned to practice just 10 days later.
While he’s missed Duke’s last two games, Jones shared repetitions in practice this week with Quentin Harris and Chris Katrenick.
If medically cleared, Jones is prepared to play when the No. 22-ranked Blue Devils play Virginia Tech Saturday at 7 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We are getting some complete medical information on Daniel,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Thursday. “I can’t tell you what I know except that he has practiced and done well.”
Back in 2013, Boone broke his right clavicle during a 28-14 Duke win at Memphis on Sept. 7. He missed Duke’s next three games, returning on Oct. 12 to lead the Blue Devils to a 35-7 win over Navy.
Duke went 10-4 that season, winning eight games in a row at one point, to win the ACC Coastal Division.
Jones’ injury was different because it occurred on his non-throwing shoulder. If he plays against Virginia Tech, he will have returned in just three weeks.
The difference in their injuries hasn’t stopped Jones and Boone from communicating often over the last three weeks to trade recovery notes.
“It’s a fairly smooth and quick recovery,” Boone said. “You have to just stay on it. A lot of ice. Letting that stuff heal by itself.”
Boone first got to know Jones on the younger quarterback’s campus recruiting visit during Boone’s senior season. They two drew closer when they both attended the Manning Passing Academy.
“We hung out a lot in New Orleans just talking ball,” Boone said. “He had a lot of questions about how I managed to get guys motivated, how I managed the guys and held guys accountable and self-practices. The formula, the mode that we used in ‘13 and ‘14 that made us successful to now.”
Cutcliffe said Jones has avoided hard contact in practice during his recovery. It’s common practice, during the season, for Duke’s quarterbacks to not take hard hits in practice anyway.
So, Boone said, the biggest test awaiting Jones will come when he gets into live action. That could come as soon as Saturday night against Virginia Tech.
“The biggest hump to get over is that first initial contact, that first blow you are going to take,” Boone said. “How is the shoulder going to feel? Is it gonna hold up? Is it going to be sharp pain? Dull pain? Am I going to feel it at all? Once that first initial hit gets out of there, it’s a mental thing that’s kind of over with.”
Jones must also consider his future in football. Considered a pro prospect, he has the option of leaving Duke after this season to enter the NFL draft. A serious injury could alter those plans.
But Boone said Jones won’t let that impact his decision about when to return to play for Duke.
“From what I’ve learned in being around DJ, he’s very selfless,” Boone said. “I wasn’t thinking down the road and I know he’s not right now. I know for a fact he’s thinking, we’re ranked 22, I’ve got to get back out there whenever I can and help my team to win.”
Given how successful the Blue Devils were the season Boone returned from his injury, he’s already joked with Jones about what lies ahead for this Duke team.
“Literally, I said `This is just like us in ‘13,’” said Boone, who now trains young quarterbacks with QB Country. “I joked that I’m going to go ahead and order my ACC championship tickets. I said `This is just like 13, dog’ He laughed out loud and said, `I hope so.’”