NFL views on the “Cowboy”


Everybody here at NIU knows about the phenomenal season LeShon Johnson is having.

After being featured in Sports Illustrated, having a full page layout in the Chicago Tribune and garnering the spotlight in other media sources, Johnson has lived up to all the preseason hype.

He’s done it by running for over 200 yards four times in this season, breaking his previous high of 1,338 yards in just over seven games and showing the ability to find at least one opening in each game large enough to spring him for 30, 40, 60 or even 92 yards.

Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the “Cowboy” just moved into fourth place in the Huskie record books with 2,844 yards and currently ranks second in total rushing yardage for a single season with 1,506.

The latest victim to fall beneath Johnson in both of these categories as of the last game:

Quarterback Stacey Robinson (1988-90), who flew past defenses for 2,727 yards; 1,443 in 1989 in his illustrious three year career.

It took LeShon just 18 games to run past the best option quarterback to play at NIU.

All of this has made people wake up and pay attention. He currently ranks as high as second in Heisman rankings in media circles around the country.

But what does all of this mean for Johnson in the long run? Obviously, his hopes and dreams are to become an NFL running back, and a good one at that. Numerous NFL scouts have visited Huskie Stadium as well as other stadiums to get a grasp on just how good the “Cowboy” really is.

Frank Ubile of the Cinncinati Bengals believes that “there is a distinct possibility that he’ll be taken in the first round.”

However, Kevin Colbert, who is the director of pro personnel for the Detroit Lions, pointed out some things Johnson needs to work on in the future.

Colbert commented on the fact that LeShon needs to improve on his pass catching and blocking abilities to become a complete running back in the NFL.

Despite these two weaknesses that could be improved on over time, Ubile, Colbert and Tomy Nobis, who was an All-American linebacker at Texas University and a first round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 1966, all agree on one thing.

The “Cowboy” will continue to ride high once he’s in the NFL.

But how high will he ride in comparison with other college backs currently in the NCAA once they arrive?

Tyrone Wheatley of Michigan, even though he is only a junior, is another high profile back Ubile looked at earlier in the season. Ubile pointed out that Wheatley isn’t the same type of back that LeShon is, but both should enjoy prosperous careers in the league.

“Wheatley’s a different type (of back),” Ubile said. “He’s bigger and faster than LeShon and catches the ball well. However, I’m not sure Wheatley’s as durable as LeShon.”

Johnson’s durability, among other things, have impressed Nobis considerably.

“He’s been very consistent throughout this year so far. If a guy has a 200-yard day and then nothing the next week you have to wonder about the competition,” Nobis said.

Top competition is one thing there will be no need to worry about if and when LeShon goes to one of the all-star bowl games later this season. Here is where the “Cowboy” can really strut his stuff.

“He can’t hurt himself in those games,” Colbert said. “When we go to those games, we really only try to upgrade players. If he does poorly, I don’t think it will hurt him.”

What about the Heisman trophy? When Ed Sherman of the Chicago Tribune was asked if Johnson has any hope of winning the trophy, his answer was simple.


Nobis and Ubile pointed out the major reason for this is the fact that Johnson and the Huskies receive absolutely no national media exposure.

“Television coverage is very important in the Heisman process,” Ubile commented.

“I don’t see enough of him on a national level,” Nobis said. “He’s a hard working guy and he deserves more. It’s too bad he’s not getting it.”