Having it both ways: Jay Jay Wilson helping lead ASU’s resurgence

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Arizona State's Jay Jay Wilson (9) scores on an interception in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Source: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Arizona State's Jay Jay Wilson (9) scores on an interception in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (Source: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Wilson began the year as a tight end but was pressed into defensive duty by head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett when the Sun Devil defense floundered in a September swoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Wilson began the year as a tight end but was pressed into defensive duty by head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett when the Sun Devil defense floundered in a September swoon. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"I’ve always played both sides of the ball – Pop Warner, high school and I’ve always been told I couldn’t do that,” said Wilson. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "I’ve always played both sides of the ball – Pop Warner, high school and I’ve always been told I couldn’t do that,” said Wilson. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Jay Jay Wilson was scoring a touchdown no matter what Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley was thinking.

“Take nothing away from him,” said Wilson. “He’s a tremendous athlete.”

Wilson, though, the sometimes tight end and now a full-time linebacker, with one subtle move epitomized a Sun Devil defensive resurgence last Saturday and put an exclamation point on ASU’s 30-10 drubbing of the Utes.

[READ MORE: Sun Devils take a leap forward with 30-10 win over Utah]

Wilson slowed down at the goal line, waited for Huntley to get close, lowered his shoulder and popped him as he scored the touchdown – just for good measure.

“Yeah, I did,” said a smiling Wilson Wednesday after practice as ASU now turns its attention toward USC.

[SPECIAL SECTION: College sports]

Game on.

Wilson and his teammates are feeling confident these days. A unit that gave up an average of nearly 30 points-per-game in the season’s first five games, has given up a paltry 17 points in their last two games combined – two upset wins over Washington and the Utes.

“We just bought in and believed in our coaches as much as they believed in us,” said Wilson. “I say we are breaking out of our shell. We haven’t showed everything we can do but we’ve showed flashes of what we can be.“

Wilson began the year as a tight end but was pressed into defensive duty by head coach Todd Graham and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett when the Sun Devil defense floundered in a September swoon. Switching positions in high school is easy. Switching positions successfully in the Pac-12 takes a special breed.

"I’ve always played both sides of the ball – Pop Warner, high school and I’ve always been told I couldn’t do that,” said Wilson. “I’ve always been told I wasn’t fast enough or strong enough. I’ve always been doubted and always faced adversity but I’ve always believed in myself and I think that’s what’s pushing me to believe I can do this.”

Wilson was a 4-star athlete coming out of high school in Valencia, California. He grew up idolizing USC and their larger-than-life stars like Reggie Bush.  Dreams of playing in the Coliseum, however, were squashed when USC failed to offer Wilson a scholarship, instead inviting him to “walk-on”.

“I just felt like I was better than that,” said Wilson. “I thought I was cheated in terms of how they looked at the film in terms of being able to play both sides of the ball. I felt they didn’t really see what I could possibly do.”

USC eventually offered Wilson a scholarship but by that time, his mind was made up -  he was going to be a Sun Devil.

“I’m glad I didn’t take that,” said Wilson. “I’m glad I’m here at ASU.”

And beating the Trojans would be undeniably special.

“Extremely special because that’s the team we all looked up to,” said Wilson. “Obviously it’s a little more special than the others.”

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