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For Lobo running back Vigilant, the long wait is over

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The time has finally come for running back Daevon Vigilant.

After injuries and tentativeness when dealing with the rehab robbed him of two years and some of this season, Vigilant is ready to be a big-time contributor for New Mexico’s football team.

Vigilant, affectionately known as “Daedae,” gave everyone a glimpse of what he can bring to the Lobos last week. It wasn’t really a breakout performance because Vigilant and those who know him well believe that he is capable of much more.

He ran for 45 yards on 11 carries, his longest run 11 yards in his first extensive action of his college career.

“I don’t feel that I have all the speed back but I feel like I have a burst,” said Vigilant, a shifty, 5-foot-7, 180-pound running back. “I have a little bit of something.”

After wowing teammates and coaches during the offseason, Vigilant was expected to team up with Lobos’ leading rusher Tyrone Owens to form a 1-2 punch in the rushing attack that flows with the new spread offense. Instead, Vigilant was unsure of his strength, a result of dealing with his injuries.

Ahmari Davis, a physical runner for the Lobos, stepped up, but has since suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out this Saturday when the Lobos (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West Conference) play at Air Force (3-6, 1-4).

Vigilant knows plenty about missing time because of injuries. He entered this season with college career rushing totals of four carries for 3 yards. After back-to-back season-ending injuries (a torn ACL in August of 2016 and a broken finger in the season opener of 2017), Vigilant is a redshirt freshman this season. He gained an extra season of eligibility after the NCAA’s approval of a medical hardship waiver.

UNM coach Bob Davie and his coaching staff had high hopes for Vigilant this season. But then again they have always had high expectations for him.

Vigilant came out of Downey High School in California, where he ran for more than 3,000 yards with an average of 8.2 yards per carry in two seasons.

“He has really good vision,” Davie said of Vigilant. “He really has taken coaching on exact cuts. He’s a guy that accepts coaching. He fits this offense. I think it’s fair to say you’re going to see more of Daedae.”

Vigilant is excited to know about the opportunity to contribute more for the Lobos, who are amid a four-game losing streak. He has been mostly dealing with injuries.

“It was frustrating,” Vigilant said of his experiences the past two seasons. “It was hard coming back from injury, especially since it happened twice. I feel like it built me to be a better player, my character and everything, my work ethic. I’m good now.”

Vigilant said that Owens was helpful throughout the past two seasons, and motivated him to come back.

Owens leads the Lobos this season with 581 yards and five touchdowns on 152 carries. He is No. 9 on UNM’s career rushing yards list (2,566). He has been dealing with a sore knee the past two weeks.

Vigilant’s confidence is back, and he has gotten to the point where he can joke about his eligibility at UNM, where he is on course to earn his undergraduate degree in the spring in communications. He said he is thinking to pursue a graduate degree in sports management, and might begin course work in the summer.

“I have three years to play after this season,” Vigilant said of his time with the Lobos. “I might build me a house or something out here.”

Vigilant learned patience the past two seasons, and he is using the same type of patience about the Lobos getting comfortable with the new offense.

“I just want to have fun,” Vigilant said. “We’re still motivated to win. That’s the difference in this team from last year’s team. No one is really selfish. We’re all together as a team. Ain’t nobody back-talking, nobody blaming one another because everybody knows we’re building. We can see the future from here.”

And, it includes Vigilant.