Blazing the Trail: Duke Johnson
July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
by Kevin Harrington
Sometimes a recruit will come along and infuse a slumping football program with not just talent, but also hope. The recruit will not simply look at the school as a springboard to the NFL, but as his home. In an age where a verbal commitment means next to nothing, loyalty is a rare trait exhibited by 18 year-old super athletes. Norland’s Randy “Duke” Johnson, however, is not your average five-star recruit. He has unwaveringly stood by his words since his initial commitment to the University of Miami in September 2010. Not only has he stayed true to the U, but he has also acted as an unofficial recruiter to bring in more talent to a program that has experienced its fair share of adversity (both on and off the field) over the past few seasons. Johnson proudly stated “George McDonald was my recruiting coordinator..and I was his.” Johnson used his influence to convince defensive back Tracy Howard, a highly heralded fellow 5-star recruit to bring his talents to South Beach. With this kind of leadership, loyalty, and not to mention ridiculous talent, Duke Johnson appears to be the next of a long list of superstar running backs that the University of Miami churns out.
The man who wore #3 on the field and one of his custom Miami hats (with “DUKE” stitched above the U) off the field finished his stellar senior campaign with a 2,087 yards and a 10.0 yards/carry average, 29 touchdowns (best in the Miami-Dade county), and a perfect 15-0 record that included a 5-A state championship MVP performance. In that game, Norland, ranked 8th nationally by ESPN, defeated Crawfordville Wakulla 38-0 behind Duke’s 266 all purpose yards, 4 rushing touchdowns, and 1 punt return touchdown. As impressive as this showcase was, it could be argued that this was Johnson’s least impressive rushing performance of the playoffs. He amassed over 1,200 rushing yards throughout the playoffs alone, including a county-record 375 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 20-point comeback against Baradenton Palmetto in the semi-finals. This came just a week after he ran for 260 yards and 4 touchdowns against Belle Glade.
Clearly Duke Johnson has the attitude and the talent that Miami desperately needs in a young superstar, and he looks to become a stud with Al Golden and his coaching staff at Miami. If he can stay out of trouble unlike a certain 5-star running back recruit from last year (cough, cough, Isaiah Crowell), it would not surprise me to see Duke Johnson surpass Lamar Miller’s 1,272 rushing yards from last season…and eventually even threaten the records set by Miami greats such as Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Edgerrin James. If Duke can even be half as amazing as I expect him to be, he will help Miami’s ever-growing case to firmly be known as “Running Back U.”
For any sports fans that want to see what kind of talent Duke is bringing to Miami this fall, check out this highlight reel from his senior season.