When you thumb through the University of Miamis innumerable individual milestones and accomplishments, many would be surprised to learn that the schools record for all-time leading rushing yards does not belong to former greats like Ottis Anderson, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee or Clinton Portis.
That distinction actually belongs to Randy Duke Johnson, who is projected to be a second-round pick in this weeks NFL draft. What makes his school record even more noteworthy is that Johnson accomplished the feat in only three years. When you factor in that he broke his ankle against Florida State during his sophomore year and missed six games, his 3,519 rushing yards as a Hurricane take on even more significance.
This past season, while some began to doubt his durability after the previous years ankle injury, Duke proved those skeptics wrong by running for 1,652 years, averaging nearly seven yards per carry with a long of 90 yards, scoring 13 touchdowns and catching 38 passes for an additional 412 yards.
Duke has been described by one scout as the best outside zone runner in the 2015 draft class. His consistent production at Miami, where he never averaged less than six yards per carry, and versatility in the passing and return games are factors that have many pro personnel executives excited about his future potential.
Over the last few years, hes been one of the most exciting running backs in all of college football. This season, Georgias Todd Gurley and Wisconsins Melvin Gordon garnered most of the national headlines, but Dukes explosive quickness, elusiveness in small spaces, ability to seamless shift gears in the open field while running through arm tackles lead many to believe that he could be an instant contributor for a franchise during his rookie season.
Duke Johnson is a product of the Miamis notorious Liberty City neighborhood and in a Shadow League exclusive video feature, we went back there to capture the essence of his support network and the crucible that helped shape who he is as a football player and a young man.
Everybody dont have that IT, Luther Campbell aka Uncle Luke told us while standing on the sacred grass grounds of the Liberty City Optimus youth football program. Hes got that IT factor!
Down here in Miami, football is life, said former Hurricane and four-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro NFL running back Edgerrin James. When youre in school or in the pros, you always hear about certain kids. And Ive always heard about Duke. Down here in the city of Miami, you can get trapped easily. And hes been able to display, no matter where hes been or what hes done, that hes been able to keep a level head. Thats a compliment to his parents, his upbringing and to himself.
Growing up as a kid, I always believed that Id be in the NFL, Johnson told us. I believe that belief is the reason why Im here now.