Bronco Beat

Boise State football tailback Jay Ajayi was 'really close' to dismissal in 2011

Boise State junior tailback Jay Ajayi met with the media Wednesday and talked about his heritage (he was born in England and his dad is from Nigeria), his opportunity to compete for a spot with the Nigeria national soccer team, his decision to choose football and America, how close Chris Petersen came to dismissing him from the team and his role on the team now.

The video is broken into two pieces attached to this post.

Highlights:

— On Petersen’s response to his shoplifting incident as a true freshman in 2011 (Ajayi pleaded guilty to petit theft): “I had made a mistake. I messed up. There were some consequences. It was a really close decision with Coach Pete from what he told me that I was almost out of the program. He sat me down, talked to my parents, and basically they said they’d give me one more chance and that I had a really thin rope and that I needed to win everyone’s trust back. I was just grateful, immensely grateful, for the opportunity to still be here because that would have been a tough situation if I had gotten kicked out.” Among his penalties: he had to redshirt (there was a chance he would play at the time) and miss the bowl trip. He tore an anterior cruciate ligament about a week after the incident.

— On his response to Petersen’s decision: “I matured fast. When I made that mistake, I was really immature, still doing dumb stuff. Having such a big thing like that happen, it really shook up my world and really made me sit back and say, ‘You’ve got to really smarten up, you’ve got to mature up, because you have an opportunity that a lot of people don’t.’ I talked to my parents and they told me the same thing as well. I’ve really wisened up. I’ve really learned from that decision and I feel like I’m moving forward really good.”

— On the combination of suspension and injury: “It was tough. I was really probably at my lowest point, just getting in trouble, trying to win everybody’s trust back, trying to do that working through scout team, giving them good looks, and then tearing my ACL. So I felt like I was just useless. I almost went through an identity crisis — what am I without football and stuff like that. But I held onto God, I held onto my family, my friends and my team, and I worked through it and it’s good to see looking back at it, seeing what I’ve been through and seeing where I am now. It’s really good to see where I came from.”

— He said he didn’t consider leaving after that first semester. “I had a lot to prove to myself because I still had not even played college football yet — and that was my dream. So for me to have left it would have been just like I did everything through high school and all that for nothing.”

— On considering, in high school, returning to England to play soccer and eventually play for the Nigerian national team: “That was a thing me and my dad took into big consideration. It was just a thing where I felt really comfortable being in America. I had made a lot of friends. I had kind of built a new life here. I wasn’t ready to make a huge life change and go back. I just felt that playing football would end up being the right path for me.”

— He said he didn’t have any regrets even after his suspension and injury as a freshman: “I love being in America. I love the fact I’m playing football. It’s my favorite sport, even though soccer is right up there with it. I have no regrets at all.”

— Ajayi is a British citizen. He was born in England. His dad was born in Nigeria. His mom was born in England but is Nigerian, too. He has family in England, Canada and Nigeria. “Ajayis all over the world,” he said. The family moved to the United States in 2000 for his dad’s job in information technology. He has four younger siblings in Texas.

— Ajayi said he did not consider leaving early for the NFL after his sophomore season. On this year, he said: “I haven’t really tried to stress myself too much about that. To be able to do that would be a major step for me and I’m not really too worried about it right now. My main focus is just having a great fall camp, just preparing myself to have a great season this year. When it gets to that point, I’ll just sit down with my parents, sit down with my coaches and then we’ll take it from there.”

— Ajayi has tagged his tweets with “#moneyseason.” He said that’s not a reference to the NFL. “(Running backs coach Keith Bhonapha), back when he was here, used to always say, ‘Don’t leave money out on the field.’ When I say ‘money season,’ it’s not necessarily just this season. It’s my mindset and motto every time I step on the field. I’m trying to make money for myself and for my team and for my family.”

— On how he can get better: “Me and (running backs coach Kent Riddle), we’ve been working on a lot of second-level cuts — trying to break those 7-yard gains into 15 to 20 plus. We’ve really been working on that. We’ve also been working on pass protection just because that was a thing I needed to work on after last season. We’ve really been working on pass protection and I feel like I’ve really improved.”

— He has not looked into an insurance policy to protect his potential NFL value.

— On wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes saying Ajayi is the key to the offense: “That’s funny. Shane is the key to this offense, to keep it really honest. Shane is an important cog in this offense. If he’s out there catching those bubble screens and just catching those routes and making people miss, it makes it a lot easier for me because then they have to worry about him and they spread it all the way out and the box opens up and I get to make plays. And then he gets to make more plays. It’s awesome.”

— On the opener: “The first game of a season sets the tone for our season. Boise State in the past has done really well when we’ve played those big-time opponents in the first game of the season. We just want to make sure that we uphold that tradition.”

Email me at ccripe@idahostatesman.com.

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