The best college football fullback you’ve never heard of


It’s only fitting that Jada Byers got the call to come to Virginia Union while she was in a bowling alley. The small running back from New Jersey has been through defenses like a bowling ball so far in his young CIAA career.

In five games this season, Byers has amassed 891 yards, averaging 194 yards per game and 11 rushing touchdowns. Both numbers lead Division II nationally. These are impressive numbers, but even these numbers don’t tell the whole story. He rushed for a CIAA-record 319 yards in Week 2 as Virginia Union beat Valdosta State, ranked as the second-best Division II football team before this week. Just a reminder – the CIAA has been playing football for 110 years.

Byers entered Week 5 of the season with more total touchdowns — 11 — than half the CIAA.

He did it all in a compact 5’7, 180-pound package that’s both sneaky and surprisingly tough to take down. Ask Fayetteville State.

Jada Byers makes moves against Fayettville State.

Byers rushed for 161 yards — his second-lowest production of the year rushing to that point — but each of them stunned the defense. FSU led 14-0 midway through the first quarter over nationally ranked team VUU. But Byers put on his cape and by the end of the quarter he had added two more touchdown points to his total to tie the game. After largely holding him in check for the next two quarters, Byers exploded in the fourth quarter on a critical drive.

VUU won the ball back nine minutes from time, taking a 24-21 lead over FSU. Byers, rolling the ball back against his 11-yard line, broke up a 27-yard run to give his team some breathing room. He followed that up with a four-yard dive and, with the help of a personal foul, VUU was in FSU territory. Byers got the ball again, breaking up a 42-yard run, driving past, around and through defenders to bring his team to the goal line. He then finished the drive with the score that would finally give his team the breathing room they needed in a 31-27 victory on the road.

After the game, Byers shook hands with the opposing team and answered questions from the media, while holding a towel. But this was no ordinary towel.

“My motivation is here,” Byers said, smiling proudly as she held the towel, along with photos of two young children. “I have two children at home.

How Jada Byers came to Virginia Union

Jada Byers’ road to Richmond, Virginia, was winding.

Byers was a highly accomplished high school star at St. Joe-Hammond High School, racking up a total offense of 6,309 yards, including 4,950 on the ground. He scored 74 touchdowns while carrying the ball and a total of 102, a New Jersey record. He was Atlantic City’s Press Player of the Year as a high school senior. Despite his accolades, Byers was doubted by college scouts due to his height. Rated two stars on leaving high school, he signed up for Sacré-Coeur, the only D1 program to offer him a scholarship.

“This season was about showing everyone that I’m still the No. 1 player in the state of New Jersey,” Byers said after signing up in 2019. skeptics).”

Things didn’t work out at Sacred Heart. Add to that the fact that Byers found he needed to be a father, and Byers says he was determined not to become a statistic.

“Because from Jersey, that’s the only thing they’re going to say about you,” Byers said. “’Oh, that was another should have, could have, would have.’ It’s one thing I tell myself, I never want to be one of them. At the time, during this process, that’s when I was expecting my daughter [Azerlyn]at a time.”

Virginia Union Jada Byers
Virginia Union running back Jada Byers speaks with the media after a win over Fayetteville State.

Byers was planning to continue his football career at Nassau Hills Junior College when he received a call that changed everything.

In Richmond, the 2021 season was approaching and head coach Dr. Alvin Parker needed a running back. His star tailback Tabyus Taylor, had hit the transfer portal after VUU and the CIAA decided not to participate in the 2020 season. Parker had tried to bring Byers to VUU right out of high school, but like many athletes, he had his heart set on playing in Division I.

Quan Johnson is one of Parker’s best friends, who also served as Byers’ star coach during his high school days. Parker says Johnson constantly talked about the quality of Byers’ back and suggested he contact him. So he called her to the bowling alley, and Byers walked over to Virginia Union.

The impact in Richmond was immediate. He led all CIAA rookies with 910 rushing yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, en route to being named the 2021 conference rookie of the year.

“I feel like home, to be honest, because I’m the kind of person I am,” Byers told HBCU Gameday. “I’m still high, no matter my lowest days. I will always bring a smile to everyone and try to be my best self. And I feel like… I’m like New Jersey because everywhere I go, everyone knows me. I know everyone.

Jada Byers Virginia Union
Virginia Union running back Jada Byers had a big day against Fayetteville State.

We love this guy

There are two things Byers will mention in his interviews besides himself — those are his kids and his offensive line.

“I tell everyone every time I have an interview, God wrote my book and I just live the actions through it,” Byers said. “And that front five that I have was just amazing.”

Parker agrees.

“I think any feedback they come back out there can give you something and put some numbers behind those guys. But Jada adds a little more to the mix when he comes in,” Parker admitted during his post-game FSU press conference.

The offensive line relies on a mix of veterans and newcomers to pave ways for Byers and other guards.

“Brian Gibson is our right tackle, he plays extremely well. Justin Means, our right guard, he plays really well. We have a conference center, Mark Lawton. Our left guard, Larry Jones is playing well. The new guy in the band is Darian Bryant, but those guys are playing extremely well. I’m happy with the way they play and I really like the tenacity of these guys.

“We love this guy,” Jones said after the FSU game. “We don’t mind putting all our blocking for him. He is really humble. He’s just gifted. It’s great to block for someone who’s good at it.

Jada Byers enters Saturday’s comeback game with 1,000 yards in reach with at least four more contests remaining, with the playoffs looking like a solid possibility. He says his goal at the start of the season was 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s a bit behind on yardage, but his touchdown total is within reach, but he recognizes that whatever he accomplishes will be a team effort.

“I said, look, it’s gonna drop, for y’all,” Byers said. “I’m just going to do what I have to do. You are all going to do what you need to do and we are going to make it happen.

Jada Byers: The Best College You’ve Never Heard Of


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