Austin Joyner loves carrying the football, but not as much as he values his health.

That’s the reason the Marysville-Pilchuck High School star wants to play defensive back in college, and it was a major factor in his recent decision to make an oral commitment to Washington State.

“The injury rate for running backs is higher than any other position,” Joyner said Tuesday. “I want to have a healthy life outside of football.”

Joyner, who will be a senior next fall, originally committed to Washington last November, shortly before coach Steve Sarkisian announced he was leaving for USC. Joyner said Sarkisian was a primary reason he chose the Huskies and he withdrew his commitment.

“I had no clue where I was going to go after that,” he said.

Joyner (5 feet 11, 186 pounds) rushed for 2,038 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore. His total yardage dropped to 1,521 last season as he dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries, but he averaged 15.2 yards per carry and scored 21 TDs. He was chosen to the Star Times all-area football team as a running back both years.

New Washington coach Chris Petersen did not offer him a scholarship as a defensive back, according to Joyner, and he ultimately narrowed his choices to WSU and Boise State.

“It came down to talent level,” Joyner said. “The Pac-12 is more competitive. That’s what made me make my decision.”

Joyner is currently on the Marsyville-Pilchuck track-and-field team and said his goal is to break the school records in the 100 (10.92 seconds) and long jump (22 feet, 8 inches). He just missed the 100 mark at last weekend’s Eason Invitational, with a career-best 10.93. He has gone 21-11 this season in the long jump.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com