Spring football practice at the University of Washington opened on a Wednesday. By Friday, all anyone could talk about was Sunday.
Redshirt freshman running back Jay'Veon Sunday, a young Texan from Waco with a lot of bravado and nerve, showed up with the intention of making everyone notice him and talk about him. With his antics, he was the talk of the spring.
One day he was Boobie Clark, the real-life Friday Night Lights character, high-stepping his way down the field and wagging fingers and doing helicopter celebrations. The next, he was Brian "Smash" Williams, the fictional FNL runner with the uber confidence, all earrings and things, and trying to stay one step ahead of a bunch of defensive players determined to take his head off.
By the time spring drills ended on a Saturday, Sunday had established himself as his own norm-testing personality, a decided showman and someone Husky fans someday will find highly entertaining once he begins carrying the football on a regular basis on game day.
"Jay'Veon is definitely a character; I love that guy," sixth-year senior running back Sean McGrew said. "He brings great energy. He runs hard. We call him the little Tasmanian devil out there because as soon as he gets the ball he wants to run into people."
Going down the roster in numerical order, this is another of our post-spring assessments of all of the Husky talent at hand, gleaned from a month of observations, as a way to keep everyone engaged during the offseason.
Sunday wears No. 26, a jersey he shares with his UW defensive opposite, fellow redshirt freshman Meki Pei, a safety from Hawaii.
Clearly, the 6-foot, 210-pound running back from the Lone Star state came into his first Husky spring practice hungry for attention and determined to make a splash.
With four veteran and seasoned runners ahead of him on the depth chart in Cam Davis, Richard Newtown, Kamari Pleasant and McGrew, and fellow redshirt freshman Sam Adams II and fellow Texan Caleb Berry taking handoffs as well, Sunday had to do something to make people notice him.
His pronounced energy level immediately brought him more reps than most of the other young backs early on. It also made his coach pull back on the reins some on this unbridled stallion.
"Jay'Veon's running style is downhill and physical," UW coach Jimmy Lake said. "He's one of those guys I had to pull back today and go, 'Hey, we're just in pajamas. Hold on. You're going to get your time to run over people when we get full pads on.' "
Defensive players sent plenty of catcalls and insults his way after he took on a few of them in non-contact drills and revealed his propensity to high-step like the leader of a marching band when in traffic.
UW defenders came rushing onto the field to surround and berate him after he got leveled coming around the corner, forcing Lake to intercede, if not save his running back.
Defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa clearly was annoyed by Sunday's antics, yelling at him as if he was an Oregon or WSU running back. Safety Alex Cook cracked helmets with the youngster. All-America cornerback candidate Trent McDuffie surprisingly knocked him down in one non-contact drill, delivering a forearm shiver and a message.
"He's a young dude out here so we try to bring him to that next level," McDuffie said slyly later. "Show him how U-Dub football is. Set the standard for him for what it's like to play on this team."
Sunday seemed undaunted by all of this Husky attention and lessons in football etiquette, seemingly ready to have fun and do things his way.
He showed himself to be one of the four fastest Huskies in the 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds) and one of the four springiest in the vertical jump (39 inches).
One thing is for sure, with a name like his this guy deserves his own calendar, maybe filled with different photos of him high-stepping, breaking off long runs and scoring breathtaking touchdowns.
A guy like Sunday doesn't come along every year. Or day.
Sunday's 2021 Outlook: Projected reserve running back
UW Service Time: None
Individual Honors: Not yet
Pro prospects: 2025 NFL second-day draftee
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