Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Flashback: All-Time Career Rushing Leader

The Brigham Young Cougars backfield is full of talented rushers in 2011. Great things are expected of them, but none of them is expected to break the school record for most yards rushing in a career this year.

Even though a new career rushing leader won’t be crowned this year, this year marks a special anniversary for three former Cougars who have been the school’s all-time career rushing leader.

John Ogden, 1966
This year marks 45 years since John Ogden shattered Eldon Fortie’s four year old record (1,666 yards). Ogden raised the mark to 2,376 largely in part because he played at a high level from the very first time he stepped on the field. He gained 770 yards as a sophomore with a 4.3 yards per carry average, and followed that up with 700 yards as a junior with a 4.6 yards per carry average.

Ogden’s senior season was his best. He racked up 906 yards (second most in BYU history, at that time) by averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Appropriately, Ogden’s last game was his best. In the final game of the season, against Pacific, he went off for 204 yards on the ground, which was good for second most in a single game in BYU history.

Ogden ended the year as the leading rusher in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and was named first team All-WAC.

Lakei Heimuli, 1986
Fast forward 20 years to 1986--25 years ago--when Lakei Heimuli became the school’s all-time leading rusher. By this time, Jeff Blanc (2,663 yards) was the school record holder.

Heimuli took over as BYU’s featured back in 1984 when he was just a sophomore. He rushed for 796 yards that year. He followed that with 857 as a junior. Going into his senior season, Heimuli was still 919 yards behind Blanc. Heimuli would have to have the best year of his career.

Heimuli got off to a slow start in 1986, and it appeared he would not get the record. Half way through the season, however, he caught lightning in a bottle. Heimuli ran for a career high 177 yards vs. Wyoming (8th most in school history). He followed that up with 149 yards the next game vs. UTEP. At trip back home to Hawaii came next and Heimuli had his third consecutive 100 yard rushing game with 117 yards. Heimuli had one more huge game in 1986. It came against Utah. He punished the Utes on his way to 171 yards rushing.

Two weeks later, when Heimuli broke the record, he did it in style—during the final game of his career. Going into the game he only needed 9 yards to pass Blanc. Heimuli got 55 yards that day. He finished his career with 2,710 yards rushing.

For his play that year, Heimuli was named first team All-WAC.

Curtis Brown, 2006
Just 5 years ago, and 20 years after Heimuli set the career rushing record, Curtis Brown completed his career and set a new standard of excellence for BYU backs. Not only did he break Jamal Willis’ 12 year old record (2,970 yards), Brown became the first running back in BYU history to rush for more than 3,000 yards.

Brown had rushed for 789 yards as a sophomore and 1,123 yards as a junior. Going into 2006, he was only 759 yards behind Willis. It wasn’t so much a question of “if” Brown would break Willis’ mark, but “when” Brown would do it. He did it on “Senior Day.”

November 18, 2006, BYU played New Mexico in its final home game of the season. Coming into the game, Brown needed just 39 yards. He hadn’t rushed for less than that number in a game since the season opener. The game was just two minutes old when Brown’s number was called. He took the handoff and exploded through the middle of the line of scrimmage. He was off to the races and into the record books.

In storybook fashion, Brown broke the record on a 49-yard touchdown run in his last home game. He also topped the 3,000 yard mark that day. When the game concluded, Brown had accumulated 124 yards keeping him on pace for his second 1,000 yard rushing season. He finished the year with 1,010 yards and finished his career with 3,221 yards rushing.

Brown was named the first team All-Mountain West Conference (MWC) running back in 2006.

Presently, senior running back J.J. Di Luigi is the active player with the most career rushing yards with 1,213. He would need 2,243 yards to become BYU’s new career rushing leader this year. As I said, not going to happen. Sophomore Joshua Quezada had 505 yards last year as a freshman. If he can go over 1,000 yards this year, then he may be the next BYU career rushing leader. “Q” would be less than 2,000 yards away from the current career rushing record of 3,455 yards. He would still have two years of eligibility left, and breaking that record would not be out of the question.

More Flashbacks can be found on the Flashbacks page.

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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