LOOK: ‘He’s been a really good team player’
LARAMIE -- The only headlines you were getting out of Xazavian Valladay came from his production on the field.
The mild-mannered, soft-spoken running back from Illinois did little to draw attention to himself, you know, aside from rushing for 3,274 yards and leapfrogging some of the best ball carriers in Wyoming football history.
Valladay did it with grace. He was a humble sledgehammer in Craig Bohl's run-first offensive attack, leading the Mountain West in rushing twice in his four-year career in Laramie. When he scored a touchdown, he simply pointed to the sky, embraced his teammates and handed the ball to the nearest referee.
He was just doing his job.
"It's been heartwarming," Bohl said back in July. "He's really owned his work and he's gotten better ... He's modest. He's not tooting his own horn and he gives credit to the other people around him. He's been a really good team player, and he's a really good running back."
Records didn't mean much. If they did, Valladay sure did a nice job of hiding it. Winning was the only thing on his mind. In the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Valladay's last game in a Wyoming uniform, he was more interested in spending time with his teammates and reminiscing than the fact another 1,000-yard campaign was on the horizon.
If it was meant to be, it would happen.
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Valladay rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown in that win over Kent State. He finished the 2021 season with 1,070 yards and six touchdowns.
We'll remember the long runs and the hard-earned yards between the tackles. Mostly, we'll miss the man himself. The man who took a chance on Laramie, a place a million miles away from the suburbs of Chicago.
"I was just thinking, if I was going to drive here by myself, I don't know how the heck I was going to get back because I'm never driving in nighttime through those mountains in Wyoming," Valladay joked about his initial recruiting visit. "That's just something I feel like is dangerous. I don't know if any animals are going to pop out.
"I know a lot of that doesn't happen in Chicago, so when you see a yellow sign that says deer is about to jump out on the road, you know, I drive 30 miles per hour."
Was he proud of his accolades? Sure. But he nothing topped holding that college diploma in his hands in early December.
"It's truly an honor and a blessing," he said. "I'm so thankful."
Valladay announced Tuesday that he will exhaust his final year of eligibility in the backfield of the Arizona State Sun Devils. It's a safe bet that Wyoming fans will be keeping an eye on one of the most accomplished players to ever step foot inside War Memorial Stadium.
He was a fan favorite for a number of reasons, humility being near the top of the list.
"Coming from where I'm from and the story that I have, just being able to do the things that a lot of kids don't have a chance to do, it's something I'm very grateful for," he said.
Let's take a look back at some of the best shots of Xazavian Valladay our DJ Johnson captured during his UW career: