WACO — For two years — including a full season in which he watched Baylor win its first Big 12 title from the sidelines — Johnny Jefferson waited for his chance to contribute in an expanded role for the Bear offense.
But now, Baylor is the one waiting on Jefferson, and the No. 5 Bears have high expectations for the former Shoemaker standout.
“This is a guy who makes big plays,” Baylor head coach Art Briles said of his redshirt sophomore running back. “He’s very athletic. So we’re really excited about him.
“We keep waiting for him to be a dominant guy — not just a flash guy, but really a dominant player.”
Jefferson certainly showed flashes in the Bears’ 66-21 win against Lamar on Saturday, rushing 10 times for 121 yards and a touchdown.
But like his head coach, Jefferson said he hopes to be even better for the defending Big 12 champs — and he appreciates the fact that his head coach vowed to hold him to that standard minutes earlier.
“It lets me know that they’re not OK with me just being good and average — they want me to be the best,” Jefferson said. “That’s what I look forward to.
“Today was an average game.
“It could’ve been 12 for 180 if I wasn’t so tired.”
Last season, after redshirting as a true freshman, Jefferson was simply happy to be back on the field and helping the Bears to a second straight Big 12 championship.
In fact, he played a key role in the Bears’ title-clinching win against Kansas State, rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns on just eight carries.
But after earning 5A all-state honors as a do-it-all senior at Shoemaker, Jefferson admitted adjusting to a spot role — he averaged a shade above nine carries a game last year — wasn’t always the smoothest transition.
And after the win against Lamar on Saturday, Jefferson said the biggest reason for his success — and the biggest difference in his game — was changing his attitude to embrace that role.
“My whole thing is about just contributing,” Jefferson said, “not just sitting there, but contributing to the team and being able to use my talent that God gave me to contribute to the team. That’s my whole big thing.”
With senior Devin Chafin nursing a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the entire second half Saturday, Briles said Jefferson may very well get his chance to contribute more, just as he has always wanted.
And now, it is Jefferson who has the opportunity to deliver as the Bears are now waiting on him and not the other way around.