Packers' jumbo-sized Dillon ready for more supersized leaps
By ROB MAADDI
A.J. Dillon jumped so high on his first successful Lambeau Leap his knees landed on top of the wall and he went helmet-first into the stands.
The Green Bay Packers' jumbo-sized running back is just getting started with his supersized leaps.
With Aaron Jones sidelined by a knee injury, Dillon will see more action for the NFC North-leading Packers (8-2), starting this Sunday against Minnesota (4-5). Dillon scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 17-0 win over Seattle last Sunday and has 218 total yards in the last two games.
"I'm obviously looking forward to any time I'm out there, wherever I'm needed," Dillon said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. "That's kind of the philosophy I've had so far being in the league, even last year when I wasn't playing much. So if I need to carry the ball 40 times or four times, whatever it takes for us to get a win, I'm definitely more than able."
A second-round pick out of Boston College in 2020, the 247-pound Dillon carried the ball only 46 times for 242 yards and two scores as a rookie playing behind Jones and Jamaal Williams. Going from being the man in college to a backup in the NFL was an adjustment.
"It was definitely a big change, not going to lie," Dillon said. "But I always say everything happens for a reason, and the silver lining I will take away from it is I had two really good friends and leaders in front of me with Aaron Jones and Jamaal. They brought me in under their wing and really treated me like one of their own. I picked up a bunch of stuff from them to better my game. It also taught me how to make the most of each opportunity I do get."
Dillon did that against the Seahawks, barreling in from the 3 for his first score and heading straight toward the stands to celebrate with the fans. He needed help from teammate Allen Lazard on his leap last year.
"That was awesome, my favorite Lambeau experience," he said. "That's the first time I did it successfully by myself without having to get pushed up. And I think, honestly, I really overshot it. If there weren't fans, I would've nose-dived straight in the stands, but it was awesome."
Dillon scored again on a 2-yard run and did another leap. He finished with 66 yards rushing and also caught two passes from Aaron Rodgers for 62 yards, including a 50-yarder. Dillon has worked hard on route-running and catching passes after his receiving skills were questioned coming out of college.
"I take a ton of pride in that," he said. "Still continuously working on it. It wasn't lack of ability, it was just lack of opportunity just because we didn't do it (at Boston College). I'm really happy with my progress."
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Dillon is much more "detailed" in his second season in the NFL.
"But I think that goes for many players that are young guys," LaFleur added. "I'm just really happy to see his progression. I think he is so multi-dimensional as a halfback. I think he's done a much better job of learning how to run in his league, in terms of running behind his pads, lowering his pad level, really delivering the boom."
Dillon has become a fan favorite in Green Bay and this week he received a key to Door County because he promotes the area heavily on social media. Dillon began visiting the county because his fiancee's family has a place there.
"It was really fun. We just kept going," he said. "Then I found I was dragging her up. She's like, `I always go there.' I'm like, `We've got to go back up.'"
Last week, Dillon partnered with the Outkast NFT Collection, which consists of 10,000 programmatically generated anime and Star Wars inspired NFT works of art. Dillon said he's been monitoring NFTs closely and selected Outkast after doing his research.
"It's a space that I'm really looking to obviously learn more about and really get into," Dillon said. "I like what they've got going and I can really see it taking off."
Just like his Lambeau Leaps.
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report.
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Updated November 19, 2021