LARAMIE -- There wasn't necessarily a need at the running back position, but DJ Jones was just too tempting to pass up.

Jay Sawvel said as much after last Thursday's annual spring game inside War Memorial Stadium just moments after the North Carolina transfer accounted for 112 yards of total offense -- 77 on the ground on a dozen carries and 35 via the pass -- and a rushing touchdown in a 17-10 victory for the Brown team.

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Not too shabby for a guy who played the safety position in Chapel Hill last fall.

"I had no idea DJ Jones was going to be who he was until after he was here about three weeks," Wyoming's rookie head coach said of the graduate transfer. "Then, all of a sudden, you realize this guy's uber competitive and really mature. We gave him a lot more runs at running back today because we need to see him. He needed to play live, he needed to hit holes and he needed to make cuts ... He does it pretty well, I thought so. I'm a big fan of him."



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So was Mack Brown, who recruited the former three-star prospect out of Fayetteville, N.C. Jones chose the Tar Heels, passing up offers from the likes of Michigan, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest.

Though injuries limited him during his first three collegiate seasons, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound speedster still managed to rush for 442 yards and find the end zone twice on just 97 attempts. That's an average of nearly five yards per carry.

A loaded backfield forced Jones into the secondary during his final season at UNC. He accepted the role. He responded with 15 tackles in six games.

His desire to carry the ball, though, never left.

"It boosts my confidence a little bit," Jones said with a smile following his spring game performance. "I felt good, especially having gone through a lot of situations like full live (practices), scrimmages and stuff, but today was a good day. It just built my confidence up a little bit more."

How did Jones get to Laramie?

The story is quite simple.

Former defensive tackles coach Oscar Giles played and coached with Brown at the University of Texas. Before he accepted the same position at Houston this offseason, Giles put in a call to his old boss. He was inquiring about another running back who recently entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Brown instead urged Wyoming's staff to take a look at his safety instead.

The rest is history.

"Honestly, moving out here and coming to Wyoming was probably one of the best decisions I've made," Jones said. "I feel like this is just going to help me grow as a person more than a football player. So, I think it was a great move for me."

In two open scrimmages and the spring game, Jones has shown speed, elusiveness and even some power, refusing to step out of bounds with a defender bearing down on him. He welcomed the contact. He did so again early in the second quarter last Thursday in Laramie, carrying a handful of teammates into the end zone from seven yards out.

On his longest jaunt of the day -- a 13-yard scamper  -- Jones followed his blockers around the right edge, showing patience and quick feet. He may have even been caught off guard by the convoy leading the way. One cut back toward the middle of the field and it could've been a foot race to the paint.

Remember, this is practice. Remember, this guy hasn't carried the ball of late.

"That's a good player to go up against," said linebacker Evan Eller, a fellow graduate transfer. "You know, one-on-one's when the linebackers and running backs are going up against (one another), going up against him and just meeting him in the hole, he's got quick feet and he's a patient guy. So, that's always good, getting everybody in the linebacker room better, for sure."



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Sawvel often speaks about his admiration for the players on this roster. He says some guys -- most guys -- make it fun to come to work in the morning. He raves about their work ethic and attitudes.

It goes even further with Jones.

"I'm really, really happy that he's here," he said. "You know, like I said the other day, I tell him that every day."

It's true.

"Sawvel is a great dude," Jones added with a grin. "He does tell me that. He's not lying about that. He makes sure I know that."

There's a good reason for that.

Dare call him an offseason acquisition, Sawvel joked, Jones has proven to be a workhorse since arriving on campus, whether that's during a sprinting session, team workouts or a mundane mid-week practice.

The running back room already includes presumed starter Harrison Waylee, who is coming off a near 1,000-yard campaign despite missing three full games because of injury. Dawaiian McNeely, who chewed up nearly 400 yards on the ground the year prior, missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Jamari Ferrell, you might recall, was the lone back on the opening play against Texas Tech last September. Sam Scott also saw time in the Cowboys' backfield, rushing for 237 yards and a pair of scores.

Those guys are all back in the mix. Jones, Sawvel says, makes this group even more special.

"He's just a good football player," the head coach added. "To be playing in the ACC and playing running back and doing things and then to get moved over and have starts as a defensive back, that just shows you he's a pretty well-rounded football player. I think he's happy, he wants to be a running back and he wants that transition. He wants that position. Like I said, he looks good."

That's not all Jones wants.

"I'm here to play for the state, I'm here to help us win and to get to where we want to be, in the championship," he said. "Sawvel told us not to say that word anymore, but I'm trying to help lead this team and help get us to where we want to be -- get back on top of the Mountain West."

University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

During the summer of 2021, counted down the Top 50 football players in University of Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.

The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.

This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining 7220's Cody Tucker are Robert GagliardiJared NewlandRyan Thorburn, and Kevin McKinney.

We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is fairer.

Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter: @7220sports - #Top50UWFB

Gallery Credit:

- University of Wyoming’s Top 50 Football Players

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