After taking three days off for the Labor Day weekend, Tyren Jones was back at it on the practice field — even with a still swollen nose.
“I think he looks pretty good,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo quipped. “I told him to put ice on it. We gave him Monday off from practice.”
Jones’ nose is swollen still because of a hit he sustained in last Friday’s game against McEachern, when a linebacker Kell Parham’s hit smashed Jones’ face mask into his own face.
Jones returned, however, and earned the final laugh against the Indians when he scored four touchdowns and rushed for 326 yards on 47 carries. For the season, he has rushed for 635 yards and nine touchdowns on 77 carries.
While the heavy workload might cause concern for most, Hidalgo said he was not concerned with Jones’ ability to carry the football heavily throughout the season.
“We’ve had (four) 2,000-yard rushers (in history),” said Hidalgo, who was a longtime assistant under former Walton coach Ed Dudley before his 2009 promotion to the head position. “This is what we build our offense around — great offensive line play and giving the ball to the running back. We’ve had four guys — Justin Forte, J.J. Jackson, Michael Boydston and Tyren (last season). He’s not the first to (rush for 2,000 yards). I can promise you that he won’t be the last.”
Hidalgo made it clear that Walton has a tradition of effectively running the football, but there is certainly something a little different about the Alabama commitment.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s the most talented tailback that we’ve had,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not just for what he does on the field, but for what he does in the locker room and on the sidelines.”
What does Jones contribute to the team off the field?
“He’s just a very positive kid,” Hidalgo said. “The kids look up to him. I think the most important thing he does for our players is really model how a great player should behave. We’ve had some very good, young skill players that he has taken time out of his schedule and out of his day on how to handle it and how to carry themselves. What he does for our program will pay dividends for all the time he’s spent with our young players.”
It’s important for Jones to foster those relationships with his teammates and help them to get better because he knows that the game is about 11 players working together, just as much as it is about one dodging a would-be tackler.
“There is a perception that Tyren has done it on his own,” Hidalgo said. “He will be the first to tell you that our offensive line has played really well. The quarterback is making plays when he needs to make plays. There are a lot of guys that are fighting to win tooth-and-nail.
“He understands that he’s not doing this by himself. The great thing about him is that, when our kids do the right thing, and get a hat on a hat, he can take the ball to the house at any time.”
Jones is able to make plays once he gets through the line of scrimmage because of the time he puts into preparing for games and for the season as a whole. In addition to Walton’s typical 2½-hour periods of practice, Hidalgo said Jones spends another hour training on his own.
It’s that work ethic that allows Jones to shoulder the number of carries, and have the speed and strength to do what he does, on game days.
“He’s working out at our place and working other kids out with him to make them better,” Hidalgo said. “He is (a gym rat). He has achieved everything he has achieved through his tremendous workouts. … He’s in such incredible condition.”
With eight games left in the season to go, and a week off, that’s startling news for the opposition.