When Jay Ajayi was a true freshman, he was arrested for stealing a pair of sweatpants from a local Walmart and pleaded guilty to petty theft.
“I was really immature and still doing dumb stuff,” Ajayi said. “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.’”
As a result of this incident, Ajayi was very close to being kicked off the team by then head coach Chris Petersen.
“I had made a mistake and I messed up,” Ajayi said. “There were some consequences and it was a really close decision with Coach Pete. From what he told me that I was almost out of the program.”
Petersen gave Ajayi another chance and allowed him to remain on the team.
“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,” Ajayi said.
“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.”
If the situation wasn’t bad enough for Ajayi then, a week later he tore his ACL and was again unsure of what his future would hold.
“I felt like I was just useless and I almost went through an identity crisis with ‘what am I without football?’ and stuff like that,” Ajayi said. “But I held onto God, I held onto my family, my friends and my team. 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.”
Despite everything, Ajayi never once considered giving up.
“I had a lot to prove to myself because I still had not even played college football yet and that was my dream,” Ajayi said. “So for me to have left it would have been just like I did everything through high school and all that for nothing.”
The rest, they say, is history. Ajayi has gone on to prove himself in a big way.
He is coming off a season in which he ran for over 1,400 yards with 18 touchdowns. As a result of his spectacular season last year, he is on both the Doak Walker Award list, given to the nation’s best running back, and the Maxwell Award list for college football’s best player.
The future is indeed looking bright for Ajayi. If Ajayi has another season like he did last year, he not only could come away with a handful of awards, but could also be on his way to the NFL.
He is already on several NFL scouts lists as possibly one of the best running backs in next year’s draft.
“It’s amazing to be here now and I am very blessed,” Ajayi said. “I’m extremely grateful for what I have been through and the adversity that I have gone through and be where I am now.”