Johnson looking to join elite


With one game left in a somewhat disappointing season for the NIU football squad, the Huskies do have one highlight to look forward to.

LeShon Johnson could be imbedded into the NCAA record books, and it could be done in just 83 easy steps.

NIU’s premier tailback only needs 83 yards to be the fourth rusher in history to run for 2,000 yards.

If the mark is reached, Johnson will join the ranks of Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen and Mike Rozier, all of whom are Heisman Trophy winners.

After a thrilling performance gaining 306 yards, including an impressive 83-yard touchdown run, against a Big Ten defense, the ‘Cowboy’ broke four rushing records, including the Big West Conference season record in NIU’s inaugural year.

The previous Big West single-season rushing title was held by Cal State-Fullerton’s Obie Graves who ran for 1,768 yards in 1978.

With a similar display against an even tougher Mississippi defense, Johnson could move into the No. 3 spot on the all-time rushing list ahead of Rozier (2,148).

There are people from Mississippi who claim that Johnson will not be allowed the 83 yards.

If that is the case, it would be Johnson’s lowest total since gaining only 92 yards at Nevada, the game where Huskie QB Scott Crabtree threw for 340 yards and five TDs.

“(The 2,000 yard mark) hasn’t gotten here yet, but my offense is so well schemed, it shouldn’t be any problem getting 83 yards,” Johnson said.

With 1,917 yards, there is no practical way that anyone in the race for the rushing title will be able to surpass him.

The next closest runner is Texas Tech’s Byron Morris (1,307 yards, 145.2 ypg), followed by Wisconsin’s Brett Moss (1,208, 134.2 ypg).

For Morris to pass Johnson, he would have to run for 610 yards in his next two games, and Johnson would have to sit out this weekend.

Being considerably ahead of the rest of the pack will only improve Johnson’s Heisman hopes, and his spot in the NFL draft.

“I think I’m a first round draft pick, and if I’m not, I think I should be,” Johnson said. “I feel like I don’t have anything else to prove. I had a good game against Iowa which helped me out a lot, and scouts told me that has boosted up my stock a lot.”

If Johnson does break the 2,000 yard barrier, he will most likely be the first 2,000+ rusher not to win the Heisman.

Florida State’s Charlie Ward and Tennessee’s Heath Schueler are the two that stand in his way.

If Ward and Schueler have bad weeks, Johnson could very well be the next in line.

One more road block that stands in his way is NIU. The Huskies are not in the greatest of conferences, and did not make it to a bowl game this year.

“I think I deserve to be in the top two (in the Heisman rankings). If I go out and have a good game this week, and Ward and Schueler don’t play so well, it’s going to improve my chances. If you see that any player who ran for over 2,000 won the Heisman, but that will be tough coming from a small school,” Johnson said.

Realistically, the Huskies are looking at a 4-7 season, but will have something to show for it.

In this year the Huskies have produced a Heisman candidate, a candidate for the Doak Walker national Runningback Award, a potential All-American tailback and a shoe-in in the first round of the NFL draft pick.

What a season.