Sep. 23—JACKSONVILLE — Ron Wiggins never meant for folks to get his #FreeRon Facebook post twisted.
The March 19 hashtag appeared atop a reshare of a memory ... a video of Wiggins, then with Jacksonville High School, racing for a touchdown run against Anniston.
Wiggins' post was no protest of his redshirt-year downtime at Jacksonville State. He says he signed with an understanding that he probably would redshirt and bulk up.
But dang, a year of scout-team work can seem like an eternity for a guy who packed more than 5,000 yards into two high school seasons.
Hurry up and wait, right?
"I just really wanted to play," Wiggins said with a laugh. "It wasn't really nothing."
Consider Wiggins back in hurry-up mode.
The redshirt freshman has broken into the action at tailback for JSU this season, having played in all three of the Gamecocks' games. His career-best 54 yards rushing — complete with a 38-yard, Ron-like run — helped JSU beat North Alabama 27-24 on Saturday.
"I saw the linebacker come down real hard, so I had to make a move on him," Wiggins said. "He commits, and then it was just nothing but open field."
As he cut to the outside and broke down the UNA sideline, one could almost flash back to Wiggins' 79-yard romp down the Golden Eagle sideline in the 2019 state final against UMS Wright.
The only difference? College football has more fast guys like Wiggins on the defensive side.
"I tried to score," Wiggins said. "I ended up getting caught, but I'm going to get a score one of these games."
Wiggins' first-quarter run to the UNA 40-yard line did cause a crowd of 20,992 around Burgess-Snow Field to hold its collective breath. That's what he does and what he adds to a JSU backfield rich in grinders like starting tailback Josh Samuels, who rushed for 107 yards Saturday.
"You see the flash of what he's going to be and what the future holds for him," JSU coach John Grass said. "When he gets the ball in his hand, he's electric. ...
"We're going to continue to find ways to get him the ball, because he can make things happen. He's a home-run hitter."
Wiggins came to JSU with all of that ability but needed a year to strengthen for the college game. He added about 15 pounds, up to 185, and powered up to a 300-pound bench press and 465 on squats.
That leaves him 30 pounds short of Samuel, who leads a durable life between the tackles, but Wiggins has upped his long-term survivability in Division I football.
Injuries to others have hastened Wiggins' arrival on the field and extended his playing time. Uriah West (shoulder), injured in the COVID-year spring season, is questionable to return this fall. Pat Jackson didn't play in the UNA game, with Grass citing an ankle injury.
That left JSU's backfield with Samuel, Wiggins and freshman Matt LaRoche, a Georgia Southern transfer whose eligibility waiver got the NCAA stamp of approval last week.
Wiggins had JSU's longest play from scrimmage. His opportunities to do more of that will come with development in areas like pass protection.
"He's right on pae of where, kind of, we thought he'd be at this point in his career," Grass said. "He's got a bright future in front of him.
"It was pretty neat to see him and Matt in the backfield the other night. Both of them played well, to be freshmen."
As for now, Wiggins definitely feels free.
"Yes sir!" he said.
Sports Writer Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter: @jmedley_star.