by Michael Smith
Quarterback Cole Keller and running back Jaxon Wyatt formed quite a formidable duo for the 2020 Grain Valley football team.
Keller and Wyatt combined for 2,291 yards on the ground and were a part of a potent offense that averaged 34 points per game and helped the Eagles make it to the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
Now that Keller, who will play for Washburn University this fall, has graduated, Wyatt will take on a bigger role on the Grain Valley offense, one that he has embraced.
“I think it’s cool. I have never been this high as far as being a leader on a team,” said Wyatt, who is 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds. “This is my first year doing it and it’s kind of cool.”
Wyatt, who was an all-Suburban White Conference team selection, rushed for 959 yards and eight touchdowns on 150 carries. Without Keller, Grain Valley head coach David Allie said Wyatt likely will see more carries, especially with junior Caleb Larson likely playing his first varsity season at quarterback.
“We have some other guys who can run the ball, too, including some slot guys, so we’ll mix it up,” Allie said. “Jaxon is definitely going to take on a bigger load and he has been working hard. He runs hard and he kept getting better each game last year with his vision. He was making jump cuts and finding those open holes.”
When it comes to running with the football, Wyatt has proven to be a solid all-around running back.
“He’s a power guy, but he’s not slow,” Allie said. “When he gets into the open field, he can turn it on.”
One area where Wyatt focused on improving was his ability to catch passes. It’s an aspect of his game that he struggled with when he was a starter, but has since made a lot of improvements in that area.
Allie recalls a time when Wyatt and his father came to Moody Murray Memorial Field at night and worked on Jaxon’s pass catching. Wyatt’s father turned on the lights of his car so his son could see the football when he threw passes to him.
The football field has been like a second home for Wyatt as he’s often come there in his free time to work on his game.
“I come here almost every night and do that kind of stuff,” Wyatt said. “I have been working on my 40-yard dash times out here and at college camps. I will just come out here and sprint and condition myself.
“I think I have made a lot of progress. Two years ago, I could hardly catch it. I would sometimes catch it and sometimes not. Now I can catch it almost 100 percent of the time.”
Allie has been impressed with the progress Wyatt has made in that area.
Jaxon wasn’t blessed with great hands, so that’s a skill he’s had to work on,” Allie said. “It started in the spring when he would work on that after every track meet. He’s really been working on being multi-faceted. He gives 100 percent effort in everything he does.”
Wyatt said it will also help that he’s developed a solid chemistry with Larson over the summer. Both should carry the football a lot this coming season in an Eagle offense that features plenty of plays that involve option runs.
“Well, Cole Keller is very tall, so it was kind of hard to get a handoff from him,” Wyatt said. “A handoff from Caleb is almost perfect because he’s my size.”
Going into the 2021 season, Wyatt has some big goals for himself.
“I want to rush for 1,000 yards and get at least one touchdown a game,” Wyatt said. “Most importantly, I want to be reliable for my team whenever they need me.”