CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Jaden Jones-Watkins is getting the opportunity of a lifetime and it’s all because he lost his wallet last winter.
It’s a story that’s almost too crazy to believe but Jones-Watkins’ mishap has turned into a spot on the Illini roster. Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky found a billfold on campus last year and was searching for the owner to return it. He opened it up, saw Jaden Jones-Watkins’ name and searched the internet to try and get it back to him. Several videos popped up on the internet from Jaden’s high school football tape. Ligashesky liked what he saw, and after returning the wallet, talked to the then Illinois freshman student about joining the team. Fast forward several months later and Jones-Watkins was officially announced as an Illinois football walk-on Wednesday.
“We like to get as many home grown guys as we can,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s just best guys that we think will fit. We’re constantly looking for guys to walk-on with our program. We give walk-on scholarships here too, we’re on record for that, so that process is ongoing.”
Jones-Watkins was a standout multi-sport athlete at Fisher, but didn’t start playing football until his junior year. The 6-foot, 175-pound sophomore will play defensive back for the Illini. Jones-Watkins was a four-year starter on the Bunnies’ basketball team, and a two-time all-conference recipient. He was also named all-state in 2017 as a senior.
Jones-Watkins joins Illini basketball’s Zach Griffith and Illini walk-ons from Fisher.