Huntington kicker Jonny Aya-ay wins Fulton Walker Award

HUNTINGTON — Public address announcers often mispronounce Jonny Aya-ay’s name, but for certain they won’t forget it.

Pronounced “Eye-uh eye,” the Huntington High School kicker’s name is etched in WVSSAC record books and West Virginia Sports Writers Association annals as the 2023 winner of the Fulton Walker Award as the state’s premier special teams player.

Aya-ay was as consistent as a sunrise his senior season, making all 91 of his extra point attempts and going 5 for 5 on field goal tries.

“He’s automatic,” Highlanders coach Billy Seals said. “Jonny’s the best kicker in the state. His confidence grew so much from when he started kicking.”

Going back to his junior season, Aya-ay made 101 consecutive extra points. For his career, he went 224 for 231 on conversion attempts. Two of the misses were blocked.

Aya-ay tied the state playoff record for longest field goal, 46 yards, sharing the honor with former Hurricane High and Marshall University standout Billy Malashevich. Aya-ay also broke the record for extra points in a season and consecutive made extra points.

“I’m thankful,” Aya-ay said. “I had the best special teams unit.”

The late Walker, a former West Virginia University, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Raiders star, likely would have appreciated Aya-ay’s prowess on field goals and extra points. As a returner, Walker probably wouldn’t have liked Aya-ay nearly so much, as the Highlanders’ all-stater routinely booted kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

The 5-foot-10, 165-pound kicker with a 4.4 grade point average is attracting considerable college attention. His sister, Sophie, played soccer at Marshall, which has shown interest in Jonny.

The statistics and recruiting attention are impressive, especially for a soccer player who showed little interest in football until eighth grade when friends prompted him to try to kick a football through the uprights at Huntington High’s Bob Sang Stadium. Kick it he did, accurately over and over from beyond 30 yards. HHS special teams coach Bob Watts saw Aya-ay and coaxed him into coming out for football the next season.

Aya-ay didn’t immediately fall in love with the sport. He wanted to quit as a freshman, but Seals convinced him to stick it out. Seals and Highlanders’ soccer coach Thomas Warner worked to ensure Aya-ay could play both sports. The youngster excelled on the pitch, too, earning second-team all-state honors this season after scoring two goals and making five assists.

Aya-ay helped Huntington High to a state championship in football as a junior and to the semifinals as a senior. Aya-ay said Seals, Watts and HHS assistant Cody Carter were instrumental in helping him become the player he is.

Aya-ay will be recognized at the 77th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 5, 2024 at River City in Wheeling.

Other players who received votes for the Walker Award include Fairmont Senior’s Dylan Ours, Princeton’s Dom Collins, Riverside’s Bryce Green, John Marshall’s Connor Fitzpatrick and Martinsburg’s Sirod Musgrove.

By TIM STEPHENS/The Herald-Dispatch

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *