Confident Freshman

Jaylen Walton scored the last touchdown of the Texas game for Ole Miss. They were at least as memorable as any points scored all night.

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The Rebels trailed 59-24 early in the fourth quarter when the Longhorns kicked off after another UT touchdown. Walton hauled the ball in at the north goal line and began to race upfield. He found a seam between the hashmarks, and about the 30-yard line broke free of a would-be Texas tackler.

Not long after the Rebel freshman speedster got inside UT territory, as many as six white-shirted Longhorns were within a short distance of corralling him near the Texas 40-yard line. But right at the Longhorn sideline, the elusive Walton basically stopped for a split second dead in his tracks, back-tracked a bit and slipped away, heading back toward the middle of the field and straight for the south end zone.

The Rebels were long since out of the game at this point, even with nearly a quarter left, down four touchdowns. But it was a moment that said Ole Miss hadn't quit, and the Rebels were still giving it their all.

Certainly Walton was on the run that was named the SEC Digital Network's No. 1 play of the weekend among conference schools. Even Walton had trouble believing he actually did it.

"I watched it like four times to make sure it was real," he said, catching the highlights of the game after it was over.

Oh, but it was real. Real indeed.

"They had me at a pretty good angle," said the Memphis, Tenn., native, and Ridgeway High School alum of reaching the sideline after he passed midfield. "It was three guys coming at me at three different kind of angles. It seemed like there was no way out of it. But I made a nice little jump-cut backwards, and I found a seam, and I just hit it."

Walton doesn't come off as cocky or arrogant. He appears confident and sure of his abilities. He believes more moments like that one are in store for him during his Rebel career.

"That's called having good vision," he said of making something big out of what appeared to be at times simply a nice run-back of a kickoff and nothing more. "You can kind of sucker them into doing one thing and you do another. That's what I did."

But even he had a hard time believing he made it all the way from one end of Hollingsworth Field to the other.

"I was kind of shocked. I couldn't believe that was me running a hundred yards," he said. "It was a long way to keep running. I was pretty pleased with myself."

So were those left in the stands at the time dressed in red, along with his coaches and fellow teammates.

Jaylen Walton
Bruce Newman

Walton is fast and has all the right moves. Don't believe it? Go watch the replay. It's there for you to find.

Standing all of 5-foot-8 and weighing in at 167 pounds, Walton said he's used to being smaller than most on the football field. And he's fine with that.

"I'm not big myself, so everybody I look up to is bigger than me," Walton said. "So I've been dealing with that my whole life.

"I've been playing football since I was 6. The game kind of doesn't change," he continued, speaking of college football as opposed to previous levels he's played prior. "The theme and the structure are pretty much the same. It was maybe the game speed I was worried about. I wasn't worried about people being my size or bigger. I know I can play. The only thing I was adapting to was the game speed, and I'm kind of handling that pretty well."

Who can argue that point?

Walton is ready for the Rebels to get back on the winning track. They were 2-0 before Texas. Now with Tulane up next, they want to end the non-conference portion of play 3-1.

"Our team is anxious to bounce back against Tulane," Walton said. "Everybody loses. Sixty teams won and sixty teams lost this past week. So everybody takes a loss, and we took one. I'm looking to win a lot. I'm a sore loser. I hate losing. I'm looking for more opportunities to go out there and make plays and score."

Walton said he had often thought of making a run like that, dreamed of making a stadium erupt with cheers as he raced 100 yards for a score. He said he "felt like a rabbit in the greyhound race." And more.

"I made that run a lot (in my mind). It was always a dream to rehearse it (like I was) in the pros or in college," he said. "And I can't believe it happened. I'm just blessed and thankful I got the opportunity to do so."

Walton said he likes playing in this Ole Miss offense. He said it's made for him.

"Coach Freeze's offense is really dynamic with a lot of speed. It's a fast-paced offense, and that's what I was born with – speed. I like going fast. When I do things slow, I kind of mess up. But when I'm going real fast, I'm pretty good at it. I'm just trying to do whatever my coaches ask me to do and trying to do it the best way I can."

Despite his size? No, Walton said because of his size. He loves being small and elusive and trying to make something special happen for his team.

"That's the best thing about being 5-8. Once you stay behind a 6-7 lineman, you can hide behind him and see where the holes are," he said. "You just hit it. If they blink, then you're gone."

Just ask Texas about that.

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