Linebacker leaves team, Walker says

Tania Ganguli

Braden Jones, an outside linebacker for Northwestern the past two seasons, is “no longer part of the (football) program,” and has withdrawn from school, coach Randy Walker said Tuesday at the Wildcats’ first spring practice. These decisions come after Jones’ second arrest in the past two years and third physical altercation in four years.

The NU junior appeared in a Cook County Circuit Court in Skokie on Tuesday and was granted a continuance. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 23.

“You look at a guy who’s above a 3.5 (GPA), Premed, scored about 1400 on the boards,” Walker said. “He doesn’t fit the profile.”

Although Walker said he has to wait for the outcome of the court hearings to decide Jones’ future, he said Jones needs to take time off to focus on his issues.

“I told him we take football out of it,” Walker said. “I want to be a part of correcting some problems that exist in his life.”

Jones declined to comment on the incident.

He was arrested March 2 on charges of assaulting and trying to rob a taxi driver early in the morning.

Deputy Chief. Michael Perry of Evanston Police Department said the driver took a man — who was later identified as Jones — to the 800 block of Foster, and once he arrived, the passenger said he only had Canadian money. The two then had an argument in which the passenger yelled at the driver and demanded money from him. Perry said the passenger then struck the driver in the face and head.

Police said the offender left his wallet in the taxi cab, and that led them to arrest Jones.

In a separate incident last year, Jones pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges of battery and unlawful use of a driver’s license on March 6, 2003. The charges were related to an altercation at a Zeta Beta Tau fraternity party in January 2003.

Police initially said that Jones resisted arrest and struck the officer who tried to arrest him after he left the fraternity party.

He was charged with resisting arrest but was not convicted. Police also charged Jones with criminal damage but those charges were dropped.

This spring coaches planned to move Jones from linebacker to tight end.

Jones was an Academic All-Big Ten selection for the 2003 season. He started the first two games at outside linebacker. He came off the bench in the other 11 games as Tim McGarigle and John Pickens started at the outside linebacker spots. At the end of the season Jones’s tackle total reached 115.

Two years ago Jones was also an Academic All-Big Ten selection, and he started nine games.

In July 2001, Jones suffered minor brain damage during a fight with Vanderbilt football players in Nashville, Tenn., while he was visiting his brother. Doctors told Jones his football career was over, but he was cleared to take the field just three months later as redshirt at NU.

No charges were brought against Jones in relation to the altercation.

Senior defensive lineman Luis Castillo expressed support for his former teammate.

“He’s a great teammate, we love him to death and that’s all there is to it,” Castillo said.

Walker said he doesn’t know whether Jones will return to the team, but emphasized that Jones has more important things to consider right now.

“He has too much to offer to go the wrong way,” Walker said. “Lets just fix the problem and lets see where he is.”