There have been 30 occasions in NCAA history in which a running back has rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. Only seven pros have ever hit the 2,000-yard mark. And although the records are unofficial, there are just five known backs in Wyoming high school football history who have tallied 2,000 in a single season.
That club grew to six members Friday when Jackson Hole High School junior Jeydon Cox rushed for 281 yards in a 32-17 3A quarterfinal win over Lander to up his season total to 2,016. According to Wyoming-Football.com’s unofficial record book, that number ranks fifth all-time in state history.
Cox has rightfully received the headlines that accompany a freakish average of 224 rushing yards per game on a state championship contender. But he didn’t get to 2,000 alone. An undersized but athletic offensive line that cares only about winning the next play paved the way for Cox’s history-making season.
“They need more credit,” the junior back said of his offensive linemen. “They get me there and do all the blocking. I’m just the one running around behind them.”
A 2,000-yard rushing season is a big deal to most offensive lines. When Denver Broncos tailback Terrell Davis hit the mark in week 17 of the 1998 season his offensive linemen asked him how many yards he had after each and every carry as he approached 2,000. When Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders rushed for 2,000 yards in 1997 his offensive line carried him off the field.
There’s no bigger accomplishment for an offensive line than to have a back reach that number in a single season. But don’t tell that to Jackson’s front five.
“I actually didn’t even know he was nearing 2,000,” sophomore left tackle Jacobo Martinez said two days before Jackson’s win over Lander. “We just get on the field and go and block. We don’t really think about the stats too much.”
The unit of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore is a selfless bunch. They say classmates have “no clue” what they’ve accomplished as a unit, and they frankly don’t care.
“I wouldn’t care if it was Jeydon or Jacobo getting the credit,” junior center Sterling Smith said. “If we win or lose it’s because of the team, not one person.”
Among the five lineman and their versatile back, Smith is the only boisterous one. He is animated when his offense finishes off a long drive with a score or one of his teammates flattens a defender. The rest are calm and collected, going about their business one snap at a time.
“We keep it even,” senior right guard Ted McDaniel said of his unit’s demeanor. “Not too high, not too low.”
The line said their favorite play to run is “Red Darth.” It’s a sweep to Cox in which McDaniel and senior left guard Rodolfo Jiminez pull and find themselves alone with undersized defensive backs. Smith said it usually doesn’t end well for the defense.
“It’s pretty fun to watch Ted and Rodolfo go kill some cornerbacks,” the center said. “Those tiny little 150-pound kids don’t know what hit them.”
The unit is not physically imposing. Martinez is the only one of the five that eclipses 200 pounds. Opposing defensive lines, especially those of rivals Cody and Star Valley, often dwarf the line. What they lack in stature they make up in acumen and grit.
“We will take any line you throw at us,” McDaniel said. “We have the angles, we have the speed, we have the effort. It’s gonna be there.”
Cox gets most of his chunk yardage on runs to the outside. The east-west Jackson attack is the perfect counter to larger front sevens that struggle to run sideline to sideline.
“Against big guys our speed helps us a lot,” said senior right tackle Spencer Berezay.
Cox needs 267 more yards to pass former Bronc Theo Dawson for most rushing yards in a season in school history. If he does he’ll move into second among the all-time single-season rushing leaders in Wyoming.
Each and every week the opponents’ game plan revolves around stopping Cox and a dynamic Broncs rushing attack that averages nearly 325 yards per game. No defense has yet held Cox under 125 yards, and the junior hasn’t been held under 150 since stats were officially counted after week zero.
The third-ranked Broncs travel to second-ranked Torrington on Friday to take on the undefeated Blazers in the 3A semifinals. The Blazers, like every other Jackson opponent, know exactly what to expect from Broncs coach David Joyce’s offense. And Joyce plans on feeding the beast.
“It’s not easy when everybody knows he’s going to get 30 touches and you can focus on him,” Joyce said. “Torrington knows Jeydon’s getting 30 touches.”
If Jackson wins and advances to its first state title game since 2007, it’ll be Cox who gets the headlines. His linemen won’t beat their chests or seek attention. They know that if Cox gets the spotlight, then they’ve done their job.
“We just gotta get him to the hole, and he’ll do the rest,” Smith said.