Running ahead of the pack, Jeffery ready to lead
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
As football fans await the 60 minutes of wholesome American competition, Miner players are looking to their upperclassmen to lead them into the game and into a successful season.
Making an exception to this tradition, UTEP chances for football victory rests in the hands of one of the teams’ youngest, sophomore running back Nathan Jeffery.
Impressed with Jeffery’s commitment to his team, head coach Mike Price, is putting him as the center of many plays, knowing that he will gain yards and set the tempo for touchdowns.
“Our running game is looking fresh and sharp for this upcoming season and Jeffery is definitely a strong component of the offensive strategy,” Price said. “I want him carrying the ball at least 20 times a game, because he is that good. He is that kind of running back.”
Jeffery patiently waited his turn for playing time in 2011, rotating with a trio of seniors in Joe Banyard, Leilyon Myers and Vernon Frazier, who carried most of the load for the Miners.
Now Jeffery steps into the rotation as the player with the most in-game experience, leading the way for redshirt sophomore Josh Bell, freshmen LaQuintus Dowell and Autrey Golden among others.
“To barely be entering my sophomore season and already considered a leader on this team is a huge honor and responsibility,” Jeffery said. “I am a big step from where I was last year and I do not want to let my coaches, my team, or the fans down. I am trying to put in any extra effort that I have into learning all the plays and to being able to perform them against a defensive line.”
Standing at 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing in at 205 pounds, Jeffery solidified his spot as a playmaker with strong runs in his freshman season and throughout the offseason, carrying the ball 26 times, collecting a total of 166 yards with one touchdown.
With a 23.1 yard average per return, Jeffery is currently ranked seventh in league play, and is one of 52 candidates named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List.
The award is presented to the nation’s top college running backs.
“I have been playing football since I was five years old, and never once did I think I would be where I am at today,” Jeffery said. “UTEP has exposed me to a lot of opportunities, both in the classroom and on the field, and I am grateful for everything. Focus is key for me right now and I just want to keep improving my game, so I continue growing into the athlete I am anticipated to be.”
With a clear passion for football, Jeffery is not only recognized for his athletic ability, but his combination of sincere character and dedication to hard work.
“Jeffery is a ‘do-it all player,” said special teams coordinator and running backs coach Jeff Banks. “Last year we had three seniors on the team, one who is currently in the NFL, and he worked just as hard as them as a freshman. It did not matter if we were in a game or at practice; he made sure he kept up. He is constantly working to improve and now that he is a starter, he is not only advancing his own skill, but he has taken on the task to teach his teammates. With the addition of two freshmen to our running backs, Jeffery is constantly making sure that everyone is playing at their best and as a team.”
Audrey Westcott may be reached at prospector@.utep.edu