AMES — Fifty-seven.
That’s the relatively meager number of carries Iowa State junior running back DeVondrick Nealy has enjoyed in two seasons on the field.
But amid a smattering of highs — such as last season’s ESPN Top Plays-worthy launch into the end zone against Oklahoma State — and several lows, which included contracting pink eye in 2012 just as hopes for increased playing time opened up, Nealy’s developed a dogged work ethic.
Nothing’s too menial as the 5-10, 190 pounder from Monticello, Florida, pursues breakthroughs that span more than one play, one game at a time.
“Just going to work every day,” said Nealy, who figures to be utilized plenty along with friend and competitor Aaron Wimberly this season. “Weight room. Practice. Stretching. If I have to go and do things after practice, I’m down to do it.”
Wimberly arrived in Ames last season and swiftly became the featured running back — that is when carries weren’t being distributed in sometimes mysterious ways.
Both he and Nealy scored two touchdowns apiece, but Wimberly carried 141 times for 567 yards (4.0 average). Nealy toted the ball 41 times for 158 yards (3.9 average) and reached double digits in carries just once.
A more even mix is expected this season, but the “who’s hot” equation will remain fully in play, along with other factors.
“Are we more two-back this game or are we strictly one-back?” Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said. “Is Aaron hot? Is DV hot? How does pass protection go with that? How much of these sets are we playing, where we do this with them and do that with them? A lot goes into that, yet we certainly believe that both of these guys are good enough for us to win in the Big 12 with.”
Wimberly’s one-cut quickness borders on elite.
Nealy’s combination of speed and elusiveness light a path toward amped-up production.
And their friendship’s legit, not forced.
There’s only one backfield spotlight, but they’re willing to share it (a little).
“I’d say we’re similar,” Wimberly said. “We both push each other. With everything we do, we compete. Thats what we like to do — go out there and bust our tail.”
Wimberly’s stature (5-9, 174) doesn’t stop him from aggressively running to contact.
That’s his style, but he’s trying to be more measured with it during his senior season.
“Just changing the way I run a little bit,” said Wimberly, who eclipsed 100 yards rushing in consecutive games against Tulsa and Texas, but battled an array of injuries the rest of 2013. “Just not to take full hits to the body and prepare for impact on some of the hits. That will take some of the pressure off of me.”
So will Nealy, as past “trials and tribulations” fade from memory.
“Me and Aaron, we’re a great team duo,” Nealy said. “I can’t wait for the season to start to see what we actually do against another opponent.”