Very quietly, Donnel Pumphrey just went about his business and became the all time rushing leader in college football history. In the Las Vegas Bowl, Pumphrey ran for 115 yards on 19 carries to break Ron Dayne’s all time rushing record.
However, in Ron Dayne’s day, bowl stats didn’t count and there were no conference championship games. Plus, today, teams play 12 games and in Dayne’s day they only played 11. Dayne had only 11 games per season to break Ricky Williams’ of Texas career rushing record and Williams also only had 11
games per season counting for his stats.
Pumphrey led the nation in rushing this season with 2,133 yards rushing on 349 carries while scoring 17 Touchdowns. That was in 14 games.
Probably, very few in the East have ever heard of Pumphrey and now it’s too late to watch him as a college Running Back.
The previous two career rushing leaders were completely different types of Running Backs than Pumphrey.
Dayne was a huge Fullback playing Running Back for the Wisconsin Badgers. Listed now as 5-10, 250 Dayne was often much larger than that weighing 260 or more. He was a load to tackle.
Ricky Williams was also a power back at 5-10, 230. But, don’t for one second believe that Williams could not run. He ran with great power and speed and he tended to take short, choppy steps which made him great in the rain and the mud.
Pumphrey is listed as 5-9, 180 but I would guess that is pretty generous. What Pumphrey leaves to be desired in size, he more than makes up for in speed and moves. He’s a very shifty back than can take it to the end zone on any carry and at any time.
He’s also a very good receiver coming out of the backfield.
Donnel Pumphrey had the fortunate opportunity to play his final college game with the Aztecs in his home town of Las Vegas. A great many family members were in attendance to watch Pumphrey
break the all time career rushing record and his team beat the Houston Cougars fairly convincingly.
Pumphrey attended Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas where he rushed for over 4,000 yards and 49 Touchdowns. He ran for almost 1,500 yards as a senior and was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Nevada. In spite of that success, colleges were not beating down his door to get him to sign with their schools. His high school coach is credited with pushing Pumphrey and contacting schools. They were concerned with his size, or lack of it.
Finally, San Diego State and their coach Rocky Long decided to take a chance on Pumphrey and offered him a scholarship.
When Pumphrey was a freshman in San Diego, Running Back Adam Muema ran for 1,244 yards. Pumphrey ran for 752 yards in 2013 and Muema left a year early for the NFL before flaking out and disappearing.
Pumphrey took full advantage of having the once crowded backfield to himself as a sophomore and he ran for 1,873 yards and 20 Touchdowns using that speed that may make him famous.
As a junior, in 2015, Pumphrey slumped somewhat from his overly impressive sophomore season and ‘just’ ran for 1,653 yards and 17 Touchdowns.
2016 was his final season and he made the most of it and led the nation in rushing. He also led his Aztecs to the Mountain West Championship game where they beat the home town Wyoming Cowboys in a lovely atmosphere of rowdy Cowboy fans and 18 degree temperatures.
They just barely got by Wyoming and that was their second game in two weeks in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The first game was a narrow loss to the Cowboys, 33-34. But, for the championship, the Aztecs won by almost as narrow a margin, 27-24.
The Aztecs finished with a fine 11-3 record and as one of the better teams on the West Coast.
Now, the question will become will the NFL treat Donnel Pumphrey as college coaches did when he was in high school?
I would think the success of super small players like Darren Sproles, Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead would open doors for fantastic speedy players like Pumphrey. But, time and the NFL Draft will tell us more.
He may have to smoke the NFL Combine with amazing numbers for an NFL team to take him. But, there’s also free agency.
Pumphrey is also a very high character guy and all of his teammates seem to love him and completely support him.
Even if fans of Wisconsin and Ron Dayne will never count Pumphrey’s yardage totals as the true rushing record, there is no denying that the speedster Donnel Pumphrey was a great college player and a fun player to watch.
Sorry you folks in the East missed out.