A.J. West has upset some former Yukon football players.
The sensational Yukon tailback didn't play football until this year, his senior season. Members of the most recent Millers' teams are wondering just how good they would have been with West in their backfield.
“I talked to one of them after the game (Friday) and he was like, ‘Gosh, I wish you could have played with us,” West said.
Yukon coach Todd Wilson wonders the same thing.
“We have been pretty good the last couple of years,” said Wilson, whose team was knocked from the first round of the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
“You would have to think we would have made a lot more noise with a guy like that back there. He was there (in school) the whole time and we had no idea he could be that good of a football player.”
West has come from nowhere to be one of the best running backs in the state.
“A.J., I love him,” Yukon wide receiver Codey Sanchez said. “He is the best running back, I think, that has ever come through Yukon.”
West's 146 yards in Yukon's 49-21 win over Putnam North Friday night gives him more 1,400 yards rushing on the season.
Before this season, West hadn't played any football since the seventh grade. He quit his seventh-grade team after getting angry over being benched for missing a team camp.
“Now it makes sense to me,” West said of the disciplinary punishment. “But then, I guess I couldn't understand that.”
West played basketball in high school, but his friends constantly pleaded with him to also play football. Even Yukon teachers tried to recruit him to the gridiron.
“He just wasn't very interested,” Wilson said.
Finally, after basketball season ended last year, West caved to the peer pressure and decided to try football.
Wilson teamed him with fullback Josh Bedell and middle linebacker Diego Duarte as his workout partners in the weight room.
“Josh has been the one who has pushed me every single day in the weight room,” said West, who went from benching 160 pounds to 260 pounds.
At a summer football camp at the University of Central Oklahoma, West was timed in the 40 at 4.4 seconds.
During his first live football action at a team camp, West made an impression on Yukon coaches.
“He started making plays and you get the feeling, he has a chance to be really good,” Wilson said. “He really has been a surprise for us.”
West said he is as surprised as anyone at his success this season. He is a big reason the Millers won four straight and advanced to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
West now laments, like the rest of Yukon, that he didn't play high school football sooner.
“I have just loved everything about it,” West said. “Especially as the season has gone, I'm like, ‘Gosh, I should have been out here awhile ago.'”
West wasn't on any college recruiter's list at the beginning of the season, but Wilson thinks that should change.
“I just have to think they are going to have to love what they see on video,” Wilson said. “He does things that others guy just can't do.”