Nearly two weeks ago, redshirt sophomore tight end Jalin Conyers had his breakout performance in a 42-34 win against the University of Colorado. He became the first tight end in program history to score three touchdowns in a single game while tallying 108 receiving yards on the day.
With those statistics, it would have been safe to assume that Conyers had been a regular in the ASU offense and one of the best tight ends in the country. However, before that game, he had only scored one collegiate touchdown.
"I've had to prove myself a lot," Conyers said. "Before I transferred here I never played tight end at the college level, so all the hard work has finally flourished for me."
Conyers describes himself as a "small-town kid," growing up in Stinnett, Texas before moving to Gruver, Texas after his sophomore year of high school. Both of those towns have less than 2,000 people residing in them.
His nickname in the Sun Devil locker room is "Corn." The humorous tag was coined by redshirt sophomore defensive end Omarr Norman Lott, who started calling Conyers by his nickname after hearing where he was from, the rest is history.
"I promise you never heard of my town (Gruver)," Conyers said. "I graduated with like 20 kids in my high school class, it's in the middle of nowhere."
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound giant not only played football for Gruver High School, but he was a star basketball and baseball player. He also ran track and participated in golf. The 247sports composite rankings had Conyers ranked the fifth-best tight end in the nation in 2020, receiving offers from the likes of Ohio State, Georgia, and LSU.
Conyers committed to play football at the University of Oklahoma, but they were planning to use him as a wide receiver, which was actually more comfortable for him. In fact, Conyers didn't play much at tight end in high school. He played mostly wide receiver and sometimes even played at the quarterback position.
His time at Oklahoma was short-lived as he redshirted his freshman year in 2020 and entered the transfer portal right after the season ended. He never got to see the field in a Sooner jersey, and on Jan. 1, 2021, he became a Sun Devil.
When he arrived in Tempe, Conyers had to get used to being a tight end again, and one of his considerable challenges was working on his run and pass-blocking ability to become more of a "complete" tight end rather than just another pass catcher.
"You gotta be able to do both to play," Conyers said. "When I was at Oklahoma, I was entirely a receiver, so just getting back into it and getting more into the technical aspect of things was a challenge."
In his first season as a Sun Devil, Conyers has not only filled his role as a pass and run-blocking tight end, he has excelled at it. His pass-blocking score of 73.5 was fourth in the Pac-12 among tight ends with at least 150 snaps played, and 30th among all FBS tight ends.
"We've been talking about Jalin for a long time." ASU tight ends coach Juston Wood said. "He's blocking better, he's becoming a complete tight end, and he's starting to understand what we're asking him to do on the offense."
Conyers didn't do much on the receiving end in the 2021 season, only collecting 62 receiving yards with one touchdown. The first seven games of the 2022 season were more of the same for the third-year tight end. He had a measly 76 receiving yards in total and didn’t amass more than 30 yards in any of those games.
However, coach Shaun Aguano took over play-calling duties going into the game against the University of Colorado, and Conyers flourished with the new opportunities given.
When Glenn Thomas controlled play calling, Conyers averaged 1.1 receptions for 10.9 yards per game. Those averages jumped to 6.5 receptions for 87 yards once Aguano took play-calling duties from Thomas. All three of his touchdowns have come with Aguano calling plays.
"His performance was absolutely fantastic," Aguano said. "I thought our tight ends were underutilized in some instances this season. I always thought they were athletic and strong enough, and there were some mismatches we took advantage of."
This past weekend in a loss vs. UCLA, Conyers tallied his most receptions in a game as a Sun Devil with seven and complimented that with 66 receiving yards. Despite the loss, Conyers will continue to see an uptick in targets thanks to his superb showing in Boulder.
"I've always thought my time was gonna come, and for me, it came against Colorado," Conyers said. "Now, it's about figuring out what I can do to help the team win in any situation because I know obviously other teams are gonna see what I can do now."
Conyers will look to help ASU bounce back from the 50-36 loss to UCLA last weekend against the Washington State Cougars in Pullman, Washington on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MST.
Edited by Kathryn Field, David Rodish and Grace Copperthite.
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.