Sports, Football

AJ Dillon Ignores the Noise, Focuses on Self Ahead of NFL Draft

AJ Dillon has always had something to prove for Boston College football, and despite the coronavirus outbreak halting the usual course of the NFL Draft, Dillon said he’s still got his eyes on the prize. 

Since earning the starting job after a 272-yard, four-touchdown performance (including a stunning stiff-arm shed that went for 75 yards) against Louisville way back in 2017, Dillon has been out to show that he can get the job done regardless of the circumstances. He said he believes that it’s that personal focus despite the outside world around him that will get him to the next level in professional football.

“I feel like a big selling point for me is I’ve gone against probably the most adverse situations,” Dillon said in a video press conference on Monday. “Last year about 75 percent of my carries were going into a loaded box, and in doing so I did that for three years.”

Dillon’s position-leading broad jump and vertical jump performances at the NFL Combine, plus a 4.53 second 40-yard dash, proved that the New London, Conn. native is worth consideration by some of the NFL’s top teams. Dillon’s sheer size—weighing in at 247 pounds, he was the heaviest running back this year—is enough to turn heads considering the numbers he put up, but the excitement doesn’t stop there. 

His impressive performance among the nation’s top prospects even earned him comparisons to Derrick Henry, the NFL’s leading rusher from the 2019 season. But that’s not what Dillon is worried about: He’s focused on himself. 

“It’s definitely nice when you hear your name attached to someone like that,” Dillon said. “But I don’t like comparing myself. One-to-one, AJ Dillon, there’s only one of them. And that’s who I’m gonna continue to be.”

And of course, with such buzz around the BC running back’s name, Dillon said he has heard rumors about how high he’ll get drafted.

“Some people think they’re going in the first [round] and end up going undrafted, some people think they have gone late and then go first or second round or so,” Dillon said. “I am in good standing that I know I did everything I could. I went out there and performed, and my tape speaks for itself.”

Not only did Dillon have a standout combine performance, but it was his stellar career at BC, including a spectacular junior season, that got him a spot there in the first place. He rushed for 1,685 yards this season, nearly double that David Bailey, who had the second-most rush yards on the team. He ran for 14 touchdowns, including one 61-yard run against Pitt in the last game of the season. 

“I feel very confident with what I can do based on my time at BC,” he said. 

But as BC isn’t the same kind of school as Alabama, Oklahoma, and Clemson that seem to breed first overall picks, Dillon didn’t always get the same recognition as others putting up his numbers. So, he said, the combine was sort of a turning point. 

“I feel more confident in the fact that other people know what I can do, not just the BC community, myself, and my family,” Dillon said. “I had no doubt in my mind that I was gonna go to the combine and put up the numbers the way that I did. But I feel like it came as a shock to a lot of other people.”

With Draft day fast approaching, Dillon said he is confident in what he did to earn himself a spot on the nation’s biggest stage. 

“It’s one thing for me to just say, ‘Yeah, I’m athletic, I’m fast, I can catch a ball,’” Dillon said. “It’s another thing for me to go out there and show up.”

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff

April 13, 2020

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