Utah State’s Jaylen Warren in a bull market with the Aggies

Utah State running back Jaylen Warren (20) spins way from Boise State defensive tackle Scott Matlock (99) in the first half in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

During his pandemic downtime, of which he had plenty, Utah State running back Jaylen Warren started learning about stocks.

The senior, who is majoring in sociology, said he didn’t expect to take an interest in day trading, but the intricacies of it struck a chord deep inside him.

“Like, you buy 'em, sell 'em. Which ones would be the best to buy?” Warren explained. “You know, sometimes you can’t sell 'em yet or buy them yet or that kind of stuff.”

After the Aggies' season opener Saturday at Boise State, it’s safe to say Warren’s stock is on the rise.

Though USU lost the Mountain West Conference game to the defending champions, 42-13, Warren’s effort’s made it at least palatable. He scored both of the Aggies' touchdowns and picked up 89 yards on a career-high 22 carries.

But more impressive than what he did was how he did it.

“[Jaylen] just basically showed a bunch of young players what it takes to be prepared and be able to be in a big-time divisional football game,” coach Gary Andersen said, “how to keep fighting and clawing and prying when it doesn’t go your way and, you know, pretty soon you have some good things go your way. It was great to see.”

After the Aggies were shut out in the first half, gaining just a single first down to the Broncos' 17, the 5-foot-8, 215-pound tailback strapped his team to his back. On USU’s second possession of the second half, he ran the ball six straight times, picking up two first downs. He finally took a breather shortly after breaking off a 22-yard gain, his game high. Then, he went right back in to force his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line.

On the Aggies' very next possession early in the fourth quarter, Warren did it again. This time he ran the ball four straight times, picking up 13 yards, a first down and another touchdown in the process. Boise sent a gang to bring him down at the goal line, but Warren kept his legs moving and willed his way to the score.

Wide receiver Deven Thompkins said Warren’s efforts gave the Aggies confidence in a game that had been looking nothing short of bleak.

“You know, Jaylen is a fantastic player. He’s demonstrated that ever since I’ve been here and since he got here,” the junior said. “He definitely gave us the momentum that we needed. ... He’s a very, very good playmaker and I’m grateful that we have him.”

Warren, who graduated from East High in Salt Lake City and was The Tribune’s 2016 Player of the Year, won the starting position over University of Utah graduate transfer Devonta’e Henry-Cole. He also started the first three games of the 2019 season, his first with the team after transferring in from Snow College. During that time he carried the ball 45 times for 324 yards and four touchdowns. An arm injury cost Warren his fourth straight start, and that and the outstanding play of senior Gerold Bright limited his playing time for the rest of the season.

The coronavirus extended that downtime even further. Warren said he had access to a gym to stay physically strong during what amounted to seven months off. But he also worked on his mental strength. That’s where the interest in the stock market started.

“I just like pushing myself. I was never a quitter,” Warren said. “But I have expanded my mind as far as not only football, but ... to my life in general. Just exercising and, you know, going out of my comfort zone and learning about new stuff.”

By watching the stocks, Warren gained new insights into the value of patience and timing. That has had applications on the football field, as he waits for holes to open, and in life, where he’s trying to map out a route to the NFL.

Meanwhile, Andersen said following Saturday’s game that he expects the running game to be a key component of the Aggie’s offense this year and in years to come.

You might say he sees it as something worth investing in.