Austin Joyner has decided this will be his last year as a running back.
The Marysville Pilchuck star, who rushed for 1,511 yards and 21 touchdowns on just 100 carries last season, was a first-team all-area selection at running back and a standout defensive back the past two seasons.
Joyner will play the latter when he continues his football career at Washington State University.
“It came down to career-wise, you have a much longer career at corner than you do at running back,” Joyner said. “I want to be healthy and be able to walk and hang out with my kids when I’m older.”
However, the Tomahawks’ senior doesn’t plan on being a full-time defender just yet. Joyner said he will continue to be a force on offense for Marysville Pilchuck this season.
“I’m still going full throttle both ways,” he said. “This will probably be the toughest year because I’m going to have to play both ways a ton. But I’m not backing off at all on offense.”
Marysville Pilchuck is known for its strong running attack, which this year features Joyner, Killian Page, Hunter Trueax and JJ Valencia. The group will try to lead the Tomahawks to their third consecutive Wesco 3A title.
“(Joyner) has got some good guys around him,” Marysville Pilchuck High School coach Brandon Carson said.
Still, the Tomahawks are going to use their star athlete as much as possible.
“We’re still going to get him the ball as much as we can,” Carson said. “We’ll probably do a couple of different things with him defensively, but it sure is nice having him. Nothing will be different. We’ll keep trying to get him the ball.”
Said Joyner: “I’m going to do whatever is needed here to help us win games. I just want to be a better all-around player, defensively and offensively, this year. But I want to practice and get better at defense since that’s what I’ll play in college.”
Marysville Pilchuck has reached the state playoffs for two consecutive seasons. In order to make it three, the Tomahawks must replace several key people from last year’s squad, including quarterback Jake Luton, now at the University of Idaho.
However, Marysville Pilchuck does return a few key members of its line, including junior Corbin Ferry, and the Tomahawks are known for creating All-Wesco linemen seemingly at will.
“We have a really good offensive-line coach in coach (Scott) Stokes and he turns (inexperienced players) into someone who can come out there and block anybody,” Joyner said. “We have really good coaching, so I’m not too worried about the line. Every year it seems like it’s going to be a struggle on the line but he comes out and whips them in the shape and we’re golden. It’s like they come out of nowhere.”
Joyner added that his senior year “is probably the most excited I’ve ever been to start” the season.
“It’s crazy how fast it all happened,” he said. “I remember when I was a freshman, just moving up to play varsity. And now it’s my last year, it’s crazy how fast time flies by. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m excited to finish this experience up and start a new one.”