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Small size, Big plays: Walton shines in first three weeks

True freshman Jaylen Walton has found himself in the middle of the action this season for Ole Miss. The 5-foot-8, 167-pound running back has scored a touchdown three different ways in his first three collegiate games.
Jared Burleson/The Daily Mississippian

It’s hard enough to make an impact as a true freshman, but it’s that much harder in the Southeastern Conference. 
However, Ole Miss’ Jaylen Walton has done just that. The Memphis native has three touchdowns on the season, all in different ways — a 10-yard touchdown run against Central Arkansas in the season opener, a 51-yard touchdown catch against UTEP and most recently, an electric 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Texas.
Walton came out of Ridgeway High School as the Class 5A Player of the Year his senior year, where he rushed for 2,584 yards and 33 touchdowns. Even though the transition to college football has been a big one, Walton has handled it well.
“I’ve been playing football since I was six, and the game doesn’t change,” Walton said. “The game speed was what I was worried about. I wasn’t worried about people being bigger than me because I know I can play. The only thing I was trying to adjust to was the game speed, and I’m handling that well.”
At 5-foot-8 and 167 pounds, Walton has had to deal with being the small guy most of his life.
“I’m not big myself,” Walton said. “I look up to everybody. I’ve been dealing with that my whole life.”
Now though, Walton hopes to use his size to his advantage, hiding behind blockers when coming out of the backfield.
“That is the best thing about being 5-(foot)-8,” Walton said. “When you stay behind a 6-(foot)-7 lineman and hide behind him, you can see where the holes are, and you just hit it. If they blink, then you’re gone.”
Walton is second on the team with 247 all-purpose yards on just 11 touches this season. He said he wasn’t surprised that he has made the impact he has so far this year.
“I was pretty confident I was going to play a role on this team where I could make plays,” Walton said. “If it’s catching balls, taking handoffs, sweeps or returning, I can do it all. I’m just trying to do whatever my coaches ask me to do and do it the best way I can.”
Against Texas, he cut and wove his way around the Texas kickoff team for a 100-yard kickoff return. Walton said he has watched the replay about four times just to make sure it was real.
“I was kind of shocked,” Walton said. “I couldn’t believe that was me that did that. One hundred yards, that’s a long way to keep running. I was pretty pleased with myself.”
On the play, Walton took the kick to the sidelines looking for a hole, but he made a highlight-reel cut with three defenders coming his way.
“They had me at a pretty good angle,” Walton said. “It was three guys coming at me from three different angles and it seemed there was no way out of it, but I made a little jump cut backwards, found a seam and just hit it.”
Despite losing to Texas, Walton said he is especially looking forward to this week’s matchup against Tulane in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Since I’m a freshman, I’m pretty excited because this is my first experience to play in the Superdome,” Walton said. “I’ve never been to New Orleans, so this will be my first time. It’s still a business trip. I’m looking for our team to go down there, handle business and come back with a win.”
Even though he has been able to make quite the impact early on, Walton still has high hopes for this season.
“I’m looking to win a lot,” Walton said. “I’m kind of a sore loser. I hate losing. So I’m looking to win a lot and for more opportunities to just make plays and go out there and score.”
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