Payton Award Candidate Wins First Award of 2010 Season
Running Back Taiwan Jones Wins Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week Award
This summer, Eastern junior running back Taiwan Jones, who averaged an impressive 7.5 yards per carry as a sophomore, was named to the initial 2010 Walter Payton Award Watch List by The Sports Network.
He certainly lived up to that honor.
En route to earning Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors, Jones had a career-high 322 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and returns) in Eastern’s season-opening 49-24 loss at Nevada. His performance included an 82-yard touchdown reception and a non-scoring 74-yard run. Jones rushed 12 times for 145 yards, had another 92 yards on two receptions and 85 yards on four kickoff returns.
His previous career high was 279 yards against Sacramento State on Sept. 26, 2009. He now has seven plays in his career of 71 yards or more and 12 of at least 50.
“It’s almost to a point where I’m not surprised, but he made a few more plays against Nevada that make you marvel at how he can make plays,” praised Baldwin. “Even when things aren’t there he is able to make them. He has a toughness and grit to him -- he bangs it up in there so he’s not just a fast guy. He’s a special football player and obviously the big-play guy in our offense.”
Jones also received honorable mention nationally by College Football Performance Awards and was the team’s offensive player of the week. Other weekly award winners announced by Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin were won by Tyler Jolley (defensive player of the week), Artise Gauldin (offensive player of the week), Cody Humphrey (offensive scout team player of the week) and Alden Gibbs (defensive scout team player of the week).
A cornerback as a freshman at Eastern in 2008, Jones scored on an 87-yard run on his first carry as an Eagle running back in 2009. Jones started and ended his season with a 100-yard game, finishing with a total of six for the season to earn first team All-Big Sky Conference honors. He was a third team selection on The Sports Network’s FCS All-America Football Team, and was a third team choice as an all-purpose back on the Associated Press All-America squad.
Jones, who is from Antioch, Calif., and graduated from Deer Valley High School in 2007, finished with 1,213 rushing yards in 2009 to rank as the sixth-most in school history. He ranked in the top 10 in FCS in rushing (ninth, 101.1 per game), scoring (sixth, 9.50 per game) and all-purpose yards per game (second, 195.4). His 2,345 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returns) were the second-most in school history, and his 19 touchdowns and 114 total points both rank fourth.
In all, Jones had 14 plays (seven rushes, three receptions and four kickoff returns) of at least 38 yards in 2009, including nine of at least 50. Besides his 87-yard run, he had a school-record 96-yard touchdown run versus Idaho State and an 80-yard reception for a TD versus Northern Arizona.
His talent should also be augmented by the addition of a synthetic turf surface at Woodward Field, which will be re-named Roos Field upon project completion this September. The red turf was installed this summer in time for the 2010 season.
Jones averaged 6.1 yards per carry at home on the grass surface of Woodward Field, but that was boosted to 8.2 in EWU’s other eight games on fields that featured seven artificial surfaces as well as one grass field at Sacramento State with excellent footing.
The Walter Payton Award is given annually to the top offensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Big Sky Conference players have captured the honor six times, most recently by Eastern Washington quarterback Erik Meyer in 2005. Eastern quarterback Matt Nichols finished fourth in the voting as a senior in 2009.
There are 20 players on the current Watch List, including five from the Big Sky Conference. Besides Jones, the list also includes Montana running back Chase Reynolds, Grizzly quarterback Andrew Selle, Northern Arizona quarterback Michael Herrick and Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins.
This year’s award is being sponsored by Fathead.com. The winner will be announced on the eve of the Division I National Championship game in Frisco, Texas.