Greenwood junior Jaylin Tolbert seemed to fly under the radar for the beginning of his high school career with the Eagles.
The past few weeks, however, Tolbert’s presence on the field has been as noticeable as the long green deadlocks Tolbert ties loosely behind his head.
At the same time Tolbert’s mother dyed her hair blonde, Tolbert decided to add the green to his own.
“I love my mom so much, so we were talking about getting our hair dyed,” Tolbert said. “I said, ‘How about green?’ And she said, ‘I love it.’”
The new look has coincided with a surge in form for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Tolbert. The first game after dying his hair, Tolbert scored three touchdowns in a shocking upset of T.L. Hanna.
Most recently, Tolbert spearheaded the Eagles’ scoring in Friday’s 24-13 win against Easley. Tolbert has been chosen by the Index-Journal as the Week 8 Player of the Week after scoring three touchdowns against Easley for the Eagles’ third straight region win. He rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries and had two receptions for 33 yards.
“It just gives me a chance to show everybody who I really am,” Tolbert said. “I worked all summer, and, for me to be at this point right now, it’s good. I’m happy that coach is giving me the ball, but we just got to win.”
Greenwood coach Dan Pippin joked that he’s dying his hair white in honor of Tolbert.
“I’m going to grow mine out so I can dye it green,” Pippin said. “But now I’m dying it white in honor of how many times we’re trying to get Jaylin the ball.”
Pippin has long recognized Tolbert’s strength and talent, but the team struggled early in the season while Pippin experimented with ways to involve Tolbert in the offense.
Tolbert now leads the team in touchdowns with 12, nine rushing and three receiving. He’s maximized his speed and power running the ball in Greenwood’s heavy formation near the goal line.
“I think he’s finally got that confidence in himself too, that, ‘Hey, I can be pretty good,’” Pippin said.
Pippin added that Tolbert is starting to understand his role in the Eagles’ offense.
“He understands what his role is, and we need to keep getting his touches higher,” Pippin said. “We’ve got to get Jaylin the ball more. We’re doing a good job of that, and I think we can get it to him even more. You can see he’s kind of enjoying it.”
A member of Greenwood’s promising Class of 2020, Tolbert expected to have a breakout year last season, in his sophomore year. Instead, he broke his collarbone in a game against T.L. Hanna and missed about half of the season.
Save for one freak injury that limited him for one game, Tolbert has a clean bill of health this season and continues to impress each week.
“I guess you could say it’s bad luck, but everything happens for a reason,” Tolbert said. “You got to start from the bottom before you can get to the top. I’m back and better, that’s all it is. I’m feeling good.”