Healthy All-America junior running back hopes to make a few of his tackle-breaking and tackle-avoiding runs against North Dakota State in the NCAA FCS quarterfinals Saturday (Dec. 11)
By Krystal Deyo, EWU Sports Information
He’s healthy – no sports hernia this year – and ready to run.
After suffering injuries during the 2009 season and earlier this year, junior running back Taiwan Jones is healthy and ready to compete to his full potential against North Dakota State this weekend, especially with a prestigious All-American accolade now under his belt.
The Eagles host the Bison Saturday (Dec. 11) at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash., at 12:35 p.m. Pacific time. Last week, the Eagles knocked-off Southeast Missouri State 37-17 in a second round game. A year ago, Jones played with what was later diagnosed as a sports hernia in EWU’s first-round loss at Stephen F. Austin.
A candidate for the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in the FCS, Jones has 1,512 yards this season to rank as the fourth-best single-season performance in school history. He has an average of 137.5 rushing yards per game that ranks fourth in the NCAA Championship Subdivision. After leading the nation in all-purpose yards per game for several weeks early in the year, Jones is currently second with an average of 196.6 yards (rushing, receiving, returns) per game. He is also 10th in scoring (8.73 per game with 16 total touchdowns).
"He's just one of those players that can break it at any time, and that makes it tough on a defense," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "He's a playmaker and you better know where he is on every single snap. And even then, he's hard to stop."
Earlier this week, Jones and teammate J.C. Sherritt were named to the prestigious American Football Coaches Association All-America team.
Q: Congratulations on being named to the All-America team. How does it feel?
A: “This is a team accomplishment. If I didn’t have a team behind me, I wouldn’t be able to play well. The defense gives us the ball so much and my offensive line gets that big push, and I’m lucky to have receivers who block up-field.”
Q: What are some personal goals for this weekend?
A: “Positive yards. I kind of stopped making personal goals. My goal is for the team to make it to the national championship game. But of course I like to have good games where I get over 100 yards.”
Q: Though teams are supposed to focus on the game directly ahead of them, do you ever catch yourself looking ahead to a possible national championship showing?
A: “Definitely. I think I can speak for my team when I say we have been thinking of a national championship since the beginning of the season. But we have to take it one week at a time because every team we’ve played has been good.”
Q: You obviously stun the crowd with some of the tackles that you are able to break. Do you ever surprise yourself?
A: “Not really. It’s kind of weird because I’ll hear the crowd and I think ‘I must be doing something good.’ Other than that, I’m usually just out there running. I always come in the day after the game to watch film and sometimes I’m surprised then.”
Q: How did you find Eastern all the way from Antioch, Calif.?
A: “My running back coach Chris Hansen called me. When I first heard of Eastern, I didn’t really know where it was. But when I came on my visit, I fell in love with the team and the location grew on me.”
Q: Last season you were diagnosed with a sports hernia. What was it like to play with that kind of pain?
A: “That pain was inexplicable. You always want to give all you have, but it's one of those things that keeps you from running fast. It kept me from being me.”
Q: How is your health compared to last season?
A: “It’s almost a 100 percent turnaround from last year. I had the sports hernia, the hand injury and all of the other nicks and bruises. But I’m feeling pretty good this year.”
Q: What was your most memorable moment this season?
A: “It was definitely the Montana game. I have never been a part of a big game like that. To see so many fans and see them rush the field after the game was incredible.”