Bronco Beat

Jay Ajayi on Jeremy McNichols: ‘He has that fire inside to be great’

Football players often throw around the term “family” to describe the bonds on the team, but as they go different ways, it can naturally wane. Playing on opposite sides of the country the last two falls, Jay Ajayi and Jeremy McNichols stayed as close as ever.

Ajayi, who rushed for 1,272 yards in the regular season with the Miami Dolphins, was invited by McNichols to watch the NFL Draft with him this week as he waits to hear his name called.

“It was an honor to know he wanted me to be there. I wanted to go anyway,” Ajayi said. “It’s really going to be exciting to see his journey finally reach the pinnacle, making it to the league. It’s what he dreamed about. He did all the work, and I’m glad I was able to help him along the way however I could.”

McNichols is projected as a likely third-day pick, anywhere from the fourth to seventh rounds. In Ajayi, he will have a friend who has been through a similar wait: Ajayi went in the fifth round, 149th overall, in 2015.

“I hope his name gets called earlier than mine,” Ajayi said.

Boise State has had six running backs drafted, but it’s the last two, Ajayi and Doug Martin, who have made the biggest noise. Ajayi was No. 4 in the NFL in rushing last season, and Martin was No. 2 in 2015. Ajayi believes McNichols has what it takes to be the next Boise State back to make an impact.

“For starters, he’s a hungry kid. That desire, regardless of wherever you get drafted, it’s going to propel you in the league. He has that fire inside to be great,” Ajayi said. “His skill set, he showed it this last season. He was the workhorse, you could count on him catching the ball. Early in his career he did special teams. It won’t be hard for him to find a niche. Really, he’s got the skills, and being his brother, I’m trying to help with all the off-field stuff, the politics, the attention, just trying to educate him on those things so he doesn’t make mistakes I’ve seen others have made and that I’ve made.”

The NFL Draft begins Thursday.

I’ll have more on McNichols and Ajayi this week.

BOISE STATE RUNNING BACKS IN THE NFL DRAFT

2015

Jay Ajayi, 5th round (149th overall), Dolphins

2012

Doug Martin, 1st round (31st), Buccaneers

2003

Brock Forsey, 6th round (206th overall), Bears

1986

Jon Francis, 7th round (184th overall), Giants

1981

David Hughes, 2nd round (31st overall), Seahawks

1976

John Smith, 3rd round (75th overall), Cowboys

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