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San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey Is Running Out Of The Shadows

Did you know that Ron Dayne's career rushing record of 6,397 yards, which he set during his remarkable career at Wisconsin from 1996 to 1999, is about to go the way of Ja Rule? Yup, it's about to disappear like Jimmy Hoffa!But the man who is about to overtake The Great Dayne as the most prolific rusher in college football history, San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey, is a relative unknown who is operating in the deep shadows of today's top contenders for this year's Heisman Trophy.

Did you know that Ron Dayne’s career rushing record of 6,397 yards, which he set during his remarkable career at Wisconsin from 1996 to 1999, is about to go the way of Ja Rule? Yup, it’s about to disappear like Jimmy Hoffa!

But the man who is about to overtake The Great Dayne as the most prolific rusher in college football history, San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, is a relative unknown who is operating in the deep shadows of today’s top contenders for this year’s Heisman Trophy.

And that’s more wrong than R. Kelly singing Honey Love at a Girls Scout convention. 

When he gains an additional 1,014 yards before season’s end, which looks very doable given his insane production this year, Pumphrey will, barring injury, stand alone as the game’s all-time greatest rusher.


In an era of spread offense and passing game pyrotechnics, he’s carrying the ball nearly 30 times per game while averaging close to seven yards a carry. With 1,111 yards in the books in only six games, he’s surpassed the 200-yard plateau three times this year,with his signature performance being the 281-yarder, with three touchdowns, that he put on Cal in San Diego State’s second game.


The next week, he scorched Northern Illinois for 220 more yards on the ground to go with three more scores.

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The 5-foot-9 Las Vegas native who hovers near 180 pounds looks nothing like a major college football workhorse running back. But his speed, quickness, agility, heart, toughness and vision have conspired to craft, other than Louisville’s sensational quarterback Lamar Jackson, perhaps the greatest individual season that any player can claim midway through this season.

And he’s done it away from the spotlight and credibility that a Top 10 ranking for San Diego State would have garnered. If there’s a Heisman list without him on it, though, that’s comparable to having The Score missing from a list of the greatest Hip Hop accomplishments ever. 


How good has he been over his career? He’s already surpassed the likes of legendary ball carriers like Marcus Allen, Herschel Walker and Thurman Thomas on the game’s career rushing list. 

The current discussion Pumphrey seems to center around the argument of whether he can, at such a diminutive size, be productive at the next level. It’s shameful that people can’t simply appreciate the brilliance they’ve been seeing throughout his career while basking in the moment.


With six regular season games left in his college career, he’s collected 5,383 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns. As much as I love guys like Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, the smallest and sturdiest running back in the country is having the best year out of all of them.

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In space, he makes your eyes believe they have the capacity to lie. Instead of harping on his lack of size and an absence of brute strength, they should be paying attention to his uncanny wiggle, instincts and atypical skill set.

Just because he doesn’t play in the ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten or SEC does not mean that he isn’t worthy of the spotlight. When his career is done, his records have a chance to stand alone. It’s time we focused on what he is instead of what he isn’t.

It’s about time that the rest of the country started showing him the well-deserved love that he’s earned.  

 

Ali

Alejandro “Ali” Danois is the Editor-in-Chief of The Shadow League. His features “Humble Beginnings”, and “Rocky Flop” were mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing Anthology as among the country’s most notable stories of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ali is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, and he served as a Producer on the ESPN Films 30-for-30 documentary “Baltimore Boys”.

Follow him on twitter @alidanois