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USU football: senior running back Justen Hervey willing to do whatever the team needs

Senior running back Justen Hervey (center) laughs with a teammate during a game.
Senior running back Justen Hervey (center) laughs with a teammate during a game.
Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations

Justen Hervey is the type of player that will do whatever he can to help his team out.

Such was the case when the senior running back moved to wide receiver during camp this spring, but he has since moved back to his normal position.

“He is a team player,” said first-year Utah State running backs coach DeAndre Smith. “He is willing to do whatever it takes. He has bought into the team concept to be on special teams or if we need him at running back – whatever the case may be – he is willing to do it, so I would say he is a great teammate.”

Hervey enjoyed learning from Utah State outside receivers coach Jovon Bouknight during his short stint with that position group.

“I told (offensive coordinator) David (Yost) and coach Bouknight that I would do whatever it takes to help out the team,” Hervey said. “Coach Bouknight is a phenomenal wide receivers coach, and he taught me a lot just in the time I was there. He taught me things that I never knew a wide receiver could do, and it helped me get better as I helped them out as far as depth. Then, they gave me the decision to stay at wide receiver or go back to running back, and I ended up going back to running back – the true love.”

Hervey, a native of Beaumont, Texas, has been playing football since the age of 5.

“My dad bought me a Texas Longhorns helmet and jersey, and he would dress me up as a football player,” Hervey recalled. “One day, my uncle was sitting on the couch and he told me he wanted to see how hard I could hit him. I did everything I could just to run full speed at his stomach, and right then is when they knew I was ready to play some football.”

When he first started playing, Hervey was a defensive end, then moved to the offensive line in his second year. By year number three, he was in the backfield as a running back.

Hervey wears 34 to honor past greats like Bo Jackson, Walter Payton and Earl Campbell. However, the player he likes to emulate did not wear that same number. Rather, he adorned the number 20 on the front and back of his jersey.

“I try to pattern my game after, and try to come as close to Barry Sanders as possible,” Hervey said. “With his speed and elusiveness, I try to come as close as possible to that.”

Two of Hervey’s greatest strengths as a player are his breakaway speed and his elusiveness in the open field – similar to that of Sanders, who is unquestionably one of the most elusive running backs to play the game.

During his time at Utah State, Hervey has appeared in 38 games and made one start. He has carried the ball 59 times for 316 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, with four touchdowns. He has also caught three passes and returned one kickoff. Hervey also plays a vital role on special teams for the Aggies.

“Justen has been an absolute pleasure to work with,” Smith said. “I didn’t work with him in the spring since he was at receiver. The kid is an extremely hard worker, conscientious and always has a smile on his face. He says, ‘Yes, sir,’ all the time, and sometimes even when he messes up. He is a great kid, a great addition to my room, and he is a senior who has played a lot of football, so I lean on him from that standpoint.”

The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Hervey redshirted his first season at Utah State in 2014. He knows exactly what he wants to do in his final season.

“I visualize us being Mountain West champions,” Hervey said. “I have seen this team grow since I’ve been here, and each year has been getting better and better as far as the coaching and the players. It’s just been phenomenal to see since I’ve been here, so I am ready to finish this thing off the right way.”

Hervey appreciates the time he’s had in Cache Valley, the friends he’s met and the teammates he’s had the opportunity to share the field with.

“It’s been a journey, and it’s been amazing,” Hervey said. “I played with Chuckie Keeton for two years, and I played with Nick and Zach Vigil. It’s been quite a ride as far as victories and brotherhood. I just can’t imagine it being somewhere else where I can get along with teammates like these. When we talk about brotherhood, we talk about a real family where we can go to each other’s houses, hang out and play video games. When it’s time to get serious, we pick each other up, go through plays, make sure everybody is accountable and make sure everything is on point.”

After redshirting in 2014, Hervey played in eight games the following season, scoring his first career touchdown on a 5-yard run against Fresno State. As a sophomore in 2016, Hervey had just three carries for 84 yards, including a career-long 80-yard touchdown run, in the season opener against Weber State.

“That was the highlight of my night,” Hervey said. “I’ll never forget that night. I remember I was on the sideline and I kept telling coach Wells that I was ready to go in and make a play, and as soon as I got the opportunity, the very first handoff, I took it for 80.”

In 2017 as a junior, Hervey appeared in all 13 games and rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown – a 13-yarder at UNLV – on 25 carries.

Prior to making his way to Utah State, Hervey garnered Texas all-District 21-5A first-team honors during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons at Westbrook High School in Beaumont. He was named to the Class 5A honorable mention all-state Elite Team by the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors during his senior season as he carried the ball 204 times for 1,573 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Hervey was also a member of the Westbrook HS track and field team, competing in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, as well as the relay events. He earned all-district first-team honors as a junior in the 100 meters and was ranked 16th in the state and 18th in the nation as a senior in the 100 meters with a time of 10.80.

“My favorite sport is actually track,” Hervey said. “Nobody really knows that, but people ask, ‘Why do you like football so much?’ I just like football because of the physicality, but track is my main thing because as a kid, I always used to want to race things, and my dad used to take off on the motorcycle, always wanting to race, so that’s how I ended up liking track so much.”

The son of Lee Roy and Lawana is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and is on track to graduate this December. He says he plans on going back to school to earn a second major.

“I actually want to help younger kids by coaching,” said Hervey, when asked what he wants to do for a career. “In that case, I am going to do my best to get into the computer field of things and technology, because I see our world increasing more in technology and social media, so that will be a good deal.”