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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Meet Cayleb Jones, the first person to huge Stefon Diggs after his miracle touchdown

By Matthew Coller

For a moment, Cayleb Jones thought he ruined the greatest moment in Minnesota Vikings history.

As receiver Stefon Diggs took off down the sideline on the final play of the Vikings’ miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, Jones, a practice squad receiver, was running along side. When Diggs got into the end zone, Jones rushed onto the field to celebrate.

Then it went through his mind: Did I just commit a penalty?

“I remember looking back and being like, ‘Oh, am I going to get a flag? Did I blow it?” Jones said Monday. “Then he threw his helmet and I’m like, ‘OK we won, game’s over.”

Jones grabbed Diggs and raised him up to the crowd like Simba in The Lion King. And then the entire team crashed upon Diggs, plowing him into the tunnel.

“I was pulling people off him,” Jones said. “I’ve been in a Hail Mary game before and it’s scary underneath the pile because nobody can hear you and you can’t breathe. So after five seconds, I was like, ‘we gotta get off him.’”

In the process, Jones lost fellow receiver Jarius Wright’s hat.

“J-Wright is still upset about it,” he joked.

Jones wouldn’t have been in that position if not for his own clutch performance on September 1.

The Vikings’ receiver competition for roster and practice squad spots was tight in camp. Jones was battling with Isaac Fruechte, a former Gopher who had been active for Week 17 in 2016, and two drafted receivers Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams. In the final preseason game, it appeared that whoever stepped up would end up with a jersey and helmet the next day.

With former Gopher QB Mitch Leidner leading the team, Jones caught nine passes for 128 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. Many of his catches were off target or high, but the 6-foot-3 receiver used his wingspan and strong hands to rise up and impress the Vikings’ brass.

“Do or die, livelihood, for my family, for everybody back home in Texas going through everything,” Jones said following his big preseason performance. “I know how important it is to have opportunity to have a chance to do something you want to do.”

There’s some coincidence to his story: Jones was cut in 2016 by the Philadelphia Eagles, who the Vikings will now play in the NFC title game. He spent the 2016 season wondering if he’d ever get an opportunity to show an NFL team that he could play.

“I know what it’s like to be at home during the football season and I know what it’s like to not capitalize when opportunity presents itself,” he said.

Jones is the son of former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones. The defensive back’s coach for two years while Jones was in Dallas was Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. His brother Zay Jones was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2016.

Coming out of high school, Jones was ranked 21st on ESPNU’s top 150 prospects. He committed to Texas, where he caught just two passes as a freshman. There Jones ran into some trouble. He was charged with felony aggravated assault in for allegedly hitting and breaking the jaw of a Texas tennis player. Those charges were eventually dismissed and reduced to a misdemeanor.

At Arizona, he shredded defenses, gaining over 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons. But an unimpressive 40-yard dash and “sloppy” route running kept teams away.

“I feel like I’ve grown as a man, I’ve matured tremendously,” Jones said. “I understand the importance of coming in and working and even when you don’t get the praise or whatever you’re looking for, just keep working.”

The Vikings have a tendency to find under-the-radar receivers. Diggs was drafted in the fifth round. Adam Thielen was undrafted. It’s possible Jones could be next.

“I learn from all the guys, from Rodney [Adams] to Mike [Floyd], the youngest to the oldest guys, Diggs, Thielen, we are such a close-knit group,” Jones said. “It’s been such a cool year to learn from those guys.”

As Jones did his interview, he pulled Diggs in front of the gaggle.

“That’s my bro, for real,” Diggs said as he walked away.

The post Meet Cayleb Jones, the first person to huge Stefon Diggs after his miracle touchdown appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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