LARAMIE – Brian Hill’s record is going to be safe for a while.
Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay, who is second on the school’s career rushing list behind Hill, plans to soak up every moment of senior day and run off into the sunset after the season.
But not without a strong finish in the regular-season finale against Hawaii on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium (1 p.m., Mountain West Network).
“I’m going to take it in all and be thankful and blessed that God gave me a great opportunity to get an education and have a great athletic career here at the University of Wyoming,” Valladay said. “It’s definitely going to be a big moment, and I’m thankful that I was able to come this far throughout the last couple years. I’m definitely blessed for that, I definitely thank God for that.”
Valladay’s goal entering the season was to stay healthy and play in every game, which he has.
The fifth-year senior leads UW in rushing with 942 yards this season and said having Titus Swen (718 yards) sharing the load has kept him fresh.
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During UW’s 44-17 victory over Utah State, Valladay had 145 yards on 21 carries (6.9 per attempt), and Swen had 169 yards on 15 carries (11.3 per attempt).
Valladay is not only gracious about sharing the spotlight with Swen, he’s proud to pass the torch full-time to the Cowboys’ emerging star.
“During the game on the sideline I said, ‘You really came along the way,’” Valladay said of Swen’s explosive performance in Logan, which included touchdown runs of 43 and 98 yards in the third quarter. “He’s doing everything he can right now to be great and to be a great team player. I’m definitely excited for him.”
UW’s running back room includes sophomores Dawaiian McNeely (113 yards, one touchdown), Alphonzo Andrews and Jeremy Hollingsworth; and freshmen Joseph Braasch, D.Q. James and Jordon Vaughn.
“Nobody has anything to worry about. I truly feel like Wyoming is sort of RBU,” Valladay said of mentoring Swen and the young stable of backs waiting for their opportunities. “Those coaches really go out and do a great job of picking up great guys that they believe are not only good guys on the field but off the field. I definitely feel like Wyoming is in good hands.”
After redshirting in 2017, Valladay played in all 12 games in 2018 rotating behind Nico Evans. He was an all-Mountain West first team selection in 2019 and 2020, racking up 1,815 yards and 10 touchdowns over 17 games.
Entering his final home game Saturday, Valladay has 3,153 career rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Hill (2014-16) rushed for 4,287 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons.
Valladay is ready to pursue a professional career instead of using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to pursue Hill’s remarkable UW record.
“I loved coming to Wyoming and had a great career here,” Valladay said. “I’m thankful for all the people that paved the way for me. I’m really excited that I got to come across a lot of great people.”
Two of Valladay’s 14 career 100-yard rushing games were against Hawaii (163 yards during a 31-7 win in 2020) and in the Arizona Bowl (204 yards during the 38-17 win over Georgia State in 2019).
Valladay would love for history to repeat itself with a vintage performance on senior day against the Warriors and in a bowl game next month.
“We didn’t expect the season to go as it did, as far as losing the amount of games that we did,” Valladay said. “So being able to get another opportunity to put the brown and gold on would be something that the team would definitely want to do for sure. I think that’s our desire to get to a bowl and finish the season off on a great note.”
Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn