Cowboy‘ begins to make a habit of career games

By Fred Konrath

After rushing for a career-high 192 yards on 28 carries Saturday against Liberty, junior LeShon Johnson showed many people how well he can run with the football.

The tailback known as “Cowboy” has now racked up 885 yards (an average of 126.4 per game) for the season, and has done everything expected of him after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College last spring.

Johnson was breaking tackles and picking up key first downs en route to his second straight near-200-yard rushing game.

With Saturday’s gem and the 188-yard performance two weeks ago against Southern Mississippi, Johnson has piled up 380 yards in the last two games, and both career-best performances have come during fellow Northeastern Oklahoma alum Scott Crabtree’s only two starts at quarterback.

While lining up behind Crabtree, Johnson rushed for 1,301 yards and 16 touchdowns on 232 career attempts in two seasons at the junior college level, and is getting recognized and accustomed to playing at the Division I-A ranks.

“I’m starting to feel very comfortable with the line, and I’m reading my blocks better and just waiting for the hole to open,” said Johnson.

One person who was impressed with Johnson’s career day was Liberty head coach Sam Rutigliano. Rutigliano coached 17 years in the NFL, including a stint with the Cleveland Browns, and believes Johnson is one of the best backs he’s seen at the college level.

“He’s a nice looking back, who may play in the NFL some day,” said Rutigliano. “He’s got all the mechanics. I’ve seen a few of them, watched a lot of great runners and drafted a lot.”

“He can play at the next level. I better stop talking about him because we don’t want him to go in the first round and have you guys lose him.”

Talk about the NFL may be a bit premature for a guy who is only in his junior year of playing, but Johnson has brought rushing excitement to NIU, just as former QB Stacey Robinson did.

“I have the confidence to play at the next level,” Johnson said. “If it happens, it happens, but I’m not doubting my ability. That’s why I go out there and play hard so I can reach my dream and hope something happens.”