High school football: Salisbury’s JyMikaah Wells signs with Virginia Union

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 12, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Those 250 miles of highway that separate Salisbury and Richmond, Va., home of Virginia Union University, were viewed by JyMikaah Wells as a plus, not a minus.

“Salisbury has been good to me, but I’m looking forward to exploring new things.” Wells said. “I can’t wait to start branching out a little bit.”

Salisbury High’s record-breaking running back signed with Virginia Union’s Panthers in ceremonies at SHS last week. While he’s moving out of his comfort zone, Wells may make things more uncomfortable for CIAA defensive coordinators for years to come.

Wells’ spectacular 2022 season that led to Rowan County Offensive Player of the Year and Central Carolina Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors has been well-documented.

Wells (5-10, 215) offered an explosive power/speed combination and rushed for a school-record 5,496 yards during a four-year varsity career, with 2,023 of those yards coming as a senior when he broke the Hornets’ season record.

He also holds Salisbury records for touchdowns in a season (35) and a career (84). Wells’ TD total is second all-time in Rowan County behind only KP Parks, who put together a legendary career at West Rowan and starred at Virginia.

Wells was playing through an ankle injury in 2022, but he still dominated. It was a common occurrence late in the season for Wells to score four, five, even six touchdowns in a game.

He will be remembered as one of the best players of a golden era. The Hornets were 44-8 in his four seasons, with a state championship and a state runner-up finish. He was the primary running back for three of those seasons and was named Outstanding Offensive Player (QB Vance Honeycutt was MVP) when the Hornets won it all in the COVID-delayed season played in the spring of 2021.

Wells seemed to be drastically under-recruited for most of his career, but offers started to accumulate leading up to National Signing Day.

In January, Wells seemed to be announcing a new offer every day on social media.

“I knew that was going to happen,” Salisbury head coach Clayton Trivett said.  “People were worried about it, but a player like that is going to get offers. JyMikaah had a lot of good options.”

Wells received a Division I offer from North Carolina Central, but most of his offers came from Division II, from the South Atlantic Conference and from the CIAA, an HBCU league with a traditional North Carolina base of Livingstone, Fayetteville State, Winston-Salem State, Johnson C. Smith, St. Augustine’s, Shaw and Elizabeth City State.

Virginia Union is usually one of the kingpins, one of the bullies of the CIAA, and was 9-2 and a D-II playoff team in 2022.

Virginia Union is referred to for good reason as “Running Back U.” It’s a program where the hard-nosed ground game is still king.

It’s a program that has made running back Jada Byers, one of the most decorated and celebrated D-II and HBCU players nationally. It’s a pass-happy world out there, but at Virginia Union the Panthers still enjoy pounding the rock, and Byers has put up crazy numbers. He was named the Don Hansen Division II College Football Player of the Year.

“They made it clear to me that they like to run the ball,” Wells said with a laugh.

Added Trivett,” Virginia Union has a style of play built around toughness. It should be a great fit for JyMikaah.”

Wells said he narrowed his choice of schools down to a final three of Lenoir-Rhyne, Livingstone and Virginia Union.

Livingstone had a serious chance to get him because of family ties and because Wells was impressed with the Livingstone coaching staff and the new turf field.

But Virginia Union also has a new turf field — and a lot more championship banners. It’s a flagship HBCU program that will open the 2023 season in Canton, Ohio, playing against Morehouse in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic.

Virginia Union also was the choice that provided the distance and the space for Wells, who plans to major in mass communications. to grow.

“When I visited Virginia Union, it just had a different feel to it than anywhere else,” Wells said. “I could feel the love.”

The recruiting process can be a frustrating journey, but Wells managed to finish it with a smile on his face.

“I stopped stressing out about it,” Wells said. “A day came when I stopped worrying about what was going to happen and put it in God’s hands. Then I just let things play out.”