Boise State Football: Legacy of the Running Back
When Doug Martin was selected in the first round of the NFL 2012 Draft, it marked the first time that a Boise State running back had gone that high in the draft. Does that set a new standard for those hoping to tote the pigskin for the Broncos in the upcoming season and those to follow? Maybe, but it's also safe to say that Martin was following in a tradition at Boise State of top-notch running backs—even if many are names the general public has not heard of. Some have had a shot at the NFL, some merely were great college players and didn't go further.
What lays ahead for D.J. Harper, Drew Wright and incoming freshmen like Jack Fields or red-shirt freshmen like Jay Ajayi? The future is certainly up in the air (figuratively and maybe literally with some strong-armed quarterbacks in the fold), but if they wish to know what is expected, all those still wearing the blue-and-orange uniforms of BSU need do is look at some of the top ball carriers of the past 30 years or so.
Harper was recently named to the 2012 Doak Walker Watch List, but preseason accolades mean little when the whistle sounds to kick off the first game of the season. The real accolades are earned by getting the job done on the field during the season.
With just over a month left until BSU opens the season, it seemed like a good time to talk about a few of the top ball carriers of the past. While some running backs—like David Mikell, Jeremy Avery and Eron Hurley—are not mentioned, here are some of the backs that really set the pace for the Boise State running attack.
From 1978-1980, Cedric Minter was a threat every time he touched the football. He holds the Bronco record for most 200-plus yard rushing games (4), is third career in rushing touchdowns (37), holds the single-game rushing record (1978, versus Northern Michigan, 278 yards), is third for rushing yards per season (1,526), and holds the career rushing crown with 4,475 yards. This was when BSU was Division 1-AA.
Minter went on to play pro ball in the CFL (he played three seasons and helped Toronto win the Grey Cup) and had a two-year stint with the New York Jets (1984-85) where he carried the ball 42 times and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. He also returned punts, kickoffs and occasionally caught the ball.
He was a product of Borah High School in Boise.
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Brock Forsey played two seasons in the NFL, the first for the Chicago Bears (2003) and the second for Miami (2004). During his NFL stint, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry, and scored only two touchdowns. From 1999-2003 he was a Bronco and he scored 48 touchdowns, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and 106 yards per game in a three-year period. He also hauled in 94 passes in those three years, had 16 touchdowns and averaged 11.2 yards per catch. He is tied for second in the Bronco record books with Ian Johnson for a pair of 200-plus yards rushing per game, is second by himself with 19 total games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards, holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a season (26) and is second in career rushing touchdowns (50).
Forsey was another Idaho kid, having played football at Meridian High School, which is located just west of Boise.
From 1987 to 1991, Chris Thomas was the go-to running back at Boise State.
He ranks fourth in career rushing yards for a career with 3,437 total yards and fourth in career touchdowns with 32. Only one other Bronco carried the ball more than Thomas, and that was the aforementioned Brock Forsey.
But Thomas did more than merely carry the ball. He was a threat to receive it and return kickoffs. In fact, he ranks No. 10 all-time in all-purpose offensive yards and was a three-time All-Big Sky player.
David Hughes' name does not appear among the lists of top rushing backs for Boise State over the years, but any discussion of the BSU offensive backfield needs to include Hughes.
Hughes was one of the "Four Horsemen" of Boise State, which also included quarterback Joe Aliotti, Cedric Minter and Jerry Zahner. He only gained a total of 1,826 rushing yards in his career but he was a fullback and his blocking prowess has earned him a place in the BSU Hall of Fame.
Hughes went on to play five seasons in the NFL, the first four with Seattle and his last with Pittsburgh. During his pro career, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry with two total touchdowns and caught 107 passes for five more scores.
Undrafted by the NFL, Ian Johnson signed a free agency deal with the Minnesota Vikings, but didn't play a down.
In the four years that Johnson played for Boise State, he was nothing if not prolific carrying the football. He ranks first in rushing yards gained in a single season at 1,713 yards, second in career rushing yards behind Cedric Minter, and first in rushing touchdowns in a game (5) and a career (58).
His game-winning run against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and his on-camera proposal to his then-girlfriend, are legendary.
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Picked by Tampa Bay at No. 29 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, Doug Martin had a 'strong' career at Boise State, even if he played in the defensive secondary for a fraction of one of those years.
The "Muscle Hamster" was a fan favorite and a threat every time he touched the ball. As a sophomore, Martin was moved to the defensive secondary and played on defense and special teams until an injury to D.J. Harper had him move back over to offense. In spite of having only 24 rushing attempts as a red-shirt freshman and 129 as a sophomore, Martin's name appears third in the record books for most touchdowns in a single game (4, twice) and fifth in most touchdowns for a season (15).
He finished his career with 3,431 total rushing yards, averaging a whopping 5.6 yards per carry. Oh, and he blocks and can catch the football as well. He also averaged 23.8 yards per kickoff return and in the 2011 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, he returned the opening kickoff 100 yards against Arizona State, setting the tempo for the BSU victory to follow.