AJ Dillon is on his way ... stay tuned to see how far
Chestnut Hill, Mass. — This was in the first half Saturday, as Boston College was all but throwing UMass down a flight of stairs, when two professional scouts watching the game from the press box at Alumni Stadium began talking about AJ Dillon, the BC kid from New London, recently named to ESPN’s “top 10 players to watch” in the Heisman race.
“To make the NFL?” one scout said, repeating the question just asked of him. “All he has to do is stay healthy.”
Another scout said, “I’d take him right now, no questions asked.”
And to think this wasn’t even a day when Dillon illuminated the stat sheet, out of the game after 98 yards in the first half, after which the Eagles led 48-7 on the way to a 55-21 win. Dillon carried the ball 20 times, spelled frequently by his teammates.
“You need a stable of backs now,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “Obviously, we have the best back in the country, but you’ve got to be able to give him a rest. His style of running is physical. Those plays don’t end. (Dillon) just keeps driving and driving. It takes a lot of exertion.”
They are talking Heisman and the NFL for Dillon now, a kid already being compared to Leonard Fournette, the former monstrosity who ran at LSU, now doing the same for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This was actually a landmark day for Dillon, a sophomore, who caught his first collegiate pass. Dillon would score, diving for the pylon, perhaps making you feel sorry for the pylon. It also illustrated that he’s not all run and no catch, as some of the skeptics have suggested.
“It was great to see,” BC quarterback Anthony Brown said. “Everybody was harping on him all summer about him just being able to run. He can’t catch. It was very nice to see him open up the game like that.”
Dillon: “Everybody here associated with the team knew I had the ability to catch the ball. I'm excited to have that extra tool in my arsenal now. That felt good.”
This game was also a cautionary tale about Dillon’s effect on the offense. His mere presence is productive. Opponents will likely crowd the line of scrimmage to stop him. UMass did so Saturday. Brown responded with 279 passing yards and three touchdown passes — in one half alone — to receivers who were more open than parts of Wyoming.
“That’s what happens when you’re going to roll the dice and gamble heavy and bring everybody into the box,” Addazio said. “Back in (2013) with (Heisman candidate) Andre (Williams) we were going to run the ball and run it again and run it again and run it again. We don’t have to do that now.”
Is the Heisman thing reality? To be determined. For now, let’s call it flattering. This much we also know: Boston College, which doesn’t always move the needle nationally, has some marquee games with Miami, Clemson and Florida State upcoming. Then there’s this: Heisman voters are asked to consider a candidate’s character.
The first line of the Heisman Mission Statement: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
Dare you to find another candidate that tops Dillon there.
“I ask other athletes on campus if they follow AJ on Twitter,” BC assistant athletic director/communications Steph Tunnera said Saturday. “I tell them they should be posting what he does. Always promoting other people and teams on campus. Always crediting everyone else.”
Dillon — he’s still young, remember — could have been inwardly chafed Saturday at finishing two yards shy of 100 and not playing the second half, padding his statistics. Instead, he was gushing over his protégé, freshman running back David Bailey, who, like Dillon, is built like a Ford Expedition.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about my stats, it’s about getting the ‘W’ and being 1-0 each week,” Dillon said.
Later, talking about Bailey, he said, “he’s like my little brother. He’s my roommate in the hotel (the night before the game). I told him he deserves to be here. I was so proud today. I told him even before we played. I love the kid. I view him as a little brother. When he scored, I lit up. It was like seeing one of my siblings do something they love to do.”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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