LOOKING AT THE 2010 NFL DRAFT SLEEPERS
By Dave-Te’ Thomas, The NFL Draft Report
For those that have read my scouting reports on NFLdraftscout.com, Cbssportsline.com and NFL.com, you know I pull no punches when it comes to evaluating talent. While the NFL Draft has become the second-biggest media event by the league, outside the Super Bowl, draftniks are always on the lookout for the “hidden talents” in the collegiate ranks. Over the next few months, I will take you on a trip through the NCAA to introduce you to the Rip Van Winkles, the Super Sleepers, the players that may not be well-known to the “draft nation,” but are sure to make their marks in the NFL training camps next year.
My, what a difference a year makes. After suffering a knee injury that wiped out his 2008 season and almost saw “The Horse” quit football, SIU’s Deji Karim is rapidly establishing himself as the elite running back below the major college level. The Salukis have had several standout running backs in recent years, most recently the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, but none possessed the package of speed and power that Karim has displayed. The nation’s second-leading rusher and all-purpose yardage gainer has also added another “wrinkle to his game, averaging 35.11 yards per kickoff return. Below is a look at a player many are comparing to the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook, the Chargers’ Darren Sproles and the Jets’ Leon Washington;
DEJI KARIM Tailback Southern Illinois University Salukis #31 5:08.6-207
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Putnam City North High School
It has been a long road to national recognition for Karim, who seems to have made up for “lost” time in his final collegiate season after sitting out 2008 with a knee injury. One of the most electrifying runners in the game, he is blessed with impressive speed, loose hips and thanks to his grueling rehabilitation program during his recovery from knee surgery, added power has rightfully earned him the nickname, “The Horse.”
One of six players in the school’s storied history of great running backs to gain at least 100 yards rushing in five consecutive contests (2009), he ranks second in the nation in rushing yards per game (137.67) and all-purpose yardage (187.67), as his kickoff return average of 35.11 yards would lead the Football Championship Subdivision ranks, if he had enough attempts to qualify for the national title.
Karim is well aware of the history of outstanding tailbacks at Southern Illinois. That list includes players such as Tom Koutsos, Muhammad Abuldqaadir, Brandon Jacobs, Arkee Whitlock and Warner in recent years. "I think it's an honor to be a running back at SIU," he said. "To put my name in the history books and be mentioned with those names would be an honor. I love every day of being an SIU student."
The talented tailback almost never got an opportunity to prove to his doubters that he is one of the top running backs in college football. He suffered a left knee patella tendon partial tear during 2008 spring camp. He had set himself to pass block, and his left foot got stuck in the stadium turf. A sharp pain told him something was wrong.
The initial prognosis was very good. He would sit out the rest of spring ball and be ready to go for summer workouts. "The trainers were telling me it would be alright, that I'd probably sit out a month or two," Karim recalled. "After a few months went by, I still wasn't making any progress, so I had to have surgery." After the surgery, Karim was advised that he should be full strength in time for the 2008 season. It didn't happen.
"He came in during pre-fall with the expectation of being the running back with Larry Warner, and the knee just never got better," head coach Dale Lennon explained. "I know he felt like he had lost something, and I know he felt like that was something he might not get back. That's tough for a running back to have those emotions."
Karim thanks team trainer Lee Land for encouraging him during that pivotal October meeting. "I told him I was about to hang it up, and he told me we can work through this, everything is good, just keep working with me," Karim said.
It was decided that Karim would redshirt in 2008 and return for his fifth season in 2009. With help from Land and encouragement from his mother, Tai, and his girlfriend, Andrea, Karim finally made progress on the rehabilitation front last winter. He recalls a day during winter workouts when he started to feel like his old self.
"We were running out here in the cold weather," he remembered. "We were doing a drill, and I made a move at full speed, and Coach (Randy) Hedberg said, 'Whoa, you're back. Ok, you're back.' I didn't feel like I was all the way back, but I at least felt like I could get there."
He continued his progress throughout the 2009 season and with his eye-opening numbers, Karim has seen national honors come his way. He was recently named National Player of the Week by the Sports Network after gaining 273 yards rushing vs. Western Illinois. Becoming a “weekly highlight film” has also seen Karim recently added to the Walter Payton Award watch list, an honor given to the best player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision ranks.
Karim was a standout running back at Putnam City North High School. He earned All-State, All-District II and All-Region Class 6A honors as a senior. That season, he scored 28 touchdowns and gained 2,065 yards rushing. He added 1,254 yards and 20 touchdowns during his junior campaign, ranking sixth in the Oklahoma Class 6A ranks.
“We’ve been known to have some great tailbacks here at North,” said PCN head coach Bob Wilson. “And Deji is the most versatile back I’ve ever coached. He can do so many different things from different positions.”
Academics prevented major colleges from recruiting Karim coming out of the prep ranks, forcing him to begin his collegiate career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in 2005. He earned NJCAA All-American honorable mention as a freshman and was an All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference choice, along with receiving All-District VI and All-Region honors for the Norsemen during his sophomore campaign.
In his final season, he finished ranked ninth in the national junior college ranks in rushing, as he carried 170 times for 978 yards (5.75 avg) and nine touchdowns, as he also snared twelve passes for 93 yards. As a freshman, he ranked 24th in the nation with 913 yards and thirteen touchdowns on 158 carries (5.78 avg). He also caught fifteen passes for 222 yards (14.8 avg).
In two seasons at the junior college level, Karim averaged 5.77 yards on 328 carries for 1,891 yards and 22 touchdowns in nineteen games, adding 27 receptions for 315 yards (11.67 avg) and a score.
Karim enrolled at Southern Illinois in 2006, sharing running back duties with Larry Warner and John Randle. He appeared in fourteen games, including the first ten on offense, as he started once. He would finish his first Salukis campaign with 386 yards on 76 carries (5.08 avg), ranking second on the squad with eight touchdowns. He also scored on an 11-yard fumble recovery.
The knee injury wiped out his 2008 season, but Karim looked at his difficult circumstances as having been a blessing. "It was a learning experience that I will probably tell stories about the rest of my life," he said. "It taught me how to have patience."
Karim has been sensational in 2009, twice rushing for over 200 yards in the first nine games and produced a string of at least one touchdown run in seven consecutive contests. He has amassed 1,239 yards with eleven touchdowns on 175 carries, averaging 7.08 yards per rushing attempt. He also hauled in eleven passes for 134 yards (11.67 avg) and returned nine kickoffs for 316 yards that included one score.
Still, one of the most impressive statistics that truly highlight his career is the fact that he has never turned the ball over on a fumble. With 579 collegiate carries under his belt, that is a remarkable feat to accomplish.
Karim runs with suddenness and raw power, as he can just as easily elude or run through tacklers. He shows outstanding acceleration in the open field (see 2009 SW Baptist, Western Illinois and Illinois State games). With his superb body control, he can readily adjust on the move when trying to avoid. He shows above average balance, flexibility, agility and quickness, along with the sudden burst to instantly reach top end speed. His initial burst is evident, but it is his jitterbug, stop/start action that sets him apart from most backs, drawing comparisons to Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams in that area. He has above average vision, quickly anticipating the coverage and generates very good acceleration in the second level. With his extraordinary speed, he has the ability to cut on a dime and stop-&-start with ease, displaying that special ability needed in an outside running threat…GRADE-7.0
Karim struggled with academics coming out of high school, but has had no problems taking plays from the chalk board to the playing field. He is a student of the game, putting in extra hours in the film room. He shows solid awareness throughout his play (see 2008 Quincy game), along with great instincts and a feel for the rush lanes…GRADE-6.3
Karim is well-liked by the staff. He gets good family support and is close with his mother. He has no known off-field issues and the coaches cite his grueling rehabilitation process in 2008 as a testament to his love for the game and desire to be the best he can. He is quiet, but a personable sort, a good presence in a locker room filled with veteran players, who know he is the reason for their success, yet, he deflects praised to others for his solid performances. Simply put, he’s the type of kid you hope your daughter brings home for dinner…GRADE-7.5
Karim is a true warrior, having played part of the 2009 season with a heel injury that would sideline most. He is a tough, aggressive, physical inside runner, uncommon for a player of his size. He thrives with the ball in his hands during pressure situations and will do whatever it takes to improve all areas of his game – whether in the film room, training room or in practices. He has that ability to make the big play seem commonplace. He even shows good willingness as a blocker, as he uses his strength efficiently to be a factor in that capacity. He has a tremendous fire in his belly, where he feels that football is very important. He plays hard, setting a great example for the younger players. Ask any teammate and they tell you they will go to war with this guy in a second…GRADE-7.6
Karim almost gave up football after his knee injury wiped out the 2008 season, but his hard work in rehab has seen him emerge with impressive power to combine with his great quickness. He pushes himself harder than any player on the squad and you can see he has that passion to get to the next level. He is very coachable and will do whatever the staff asks from him, evident by him taking over kickoff return duties in addition to his full load at tailback. He has excellent weight room and practice habits, especially with his tireless approach last year in attempting to return from a season-ending injury…GRADE-7.5
Karim can instantly gain advantage with his suddenness coming off the snap. He has the balance and quickness to avoid on the move and incredible acceleration in the open field (see 2009 WIU and Illinois State games). His extremely quick feet lets him get in and out of his cuts with no wasted steps and he also shows excellent lateral movement, along with the explos4ion running down the sidelines. When he gets past the second level, he makes people miss while disappearing into the end zone. He has the ability to get up to speed quickly, but he can also execute jitterbug type of moves when exploding off the snap… GRADE-7.8
Few runners have the quickness and burst to reach top speed like Karim can. He can fluidly accelerate coming out of his cut and gain separation (see 2009 SW Baptist and South Dakota State games). With his incredible combination of speed and strength, you can see he not only has that explosive second gear, but can also beat angles with his vision and feel for coverage. He can change gears and accelerate through the holes. Once he gets into the open, his hip swerve and burst gets him free from the defenders quickly…GRADE-8.3
Karim has a great feel for the cutback lanes and with his natural feel and ability in traffic, it is very hard to bring him down. On close to a third of his 2009 non-touchdown carries (54-of-164), it took at least two defenders to bring him down one he got past the line of scrimmage (see 2009 Marshall, Northern Iowa and South Dakota State games). He runs with excellent vision, as he knows how to avoid and find the seam. He has the low center of gravity to navigate and find daylight with his inside runs, uncommon for a back with his size. His instincts with the ball in his hands show in his creativity, as he is always looking to see where holes and lanes are going before they open. He shows great balance and can get extra yards on contact. He lowers his pads and shifts gears instantly to avoid the trash and is very effective changing direction. He does an excellent job of anticipating rushing lanes, shows patience waiting for blocks to develop and is quick to improvise when the holes fail to materialize. He is so instinctive seeing creases and defenders, that by the time the opponent positions to make the tackle, Karim is already shifting down, changing gears and eluding his man…GRADE-7.7
“Little guys” should not be attacking inside rush lanes with the power Karim generates. He has very good vision and the ability to pick and slide while building acceleration up the crease. He has the natural balance and forward body lean to bounce off the initial contact (held to only minus 30 yards in 2009). Even though he lacks ideal size and bulk, he has no problem generating a strong inside push, as he will lower his shoulder and keep his legs churning for additional yards. The thing you notice on film is his ability to pick his way through a crowd, as he might be explosive, but is also patient to let the play develop and run off his blocks. Like the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook, he slides and hits the seams quickly, showing above average balance to make the jump cut and power through the crease…GRADE-7.0
Karim has the speed and outstanding acceleration, along with a nice array of hip and head fakes to rock defenders up on their heels. He reads and anticipates well, especially when taking the ball around the corner and easily beats the opponent to the edge. He is a “make you miss” type past the second level (see 2009 Western Illinois and Illinois State games), showing great stamina to take the sphere long distances. With his speed, he can get to the corner in an instant and that burst of his is noticeable heading up field. But, he also has that natural vision in the open that helps eliminate a defender’s angles. He shows patience waiting for the toss to develop, doing an excellent job of staying low in his pads and changing gears to shift and bounce wide…GRADE-8.0
Karim is more elusive than a movie star trying to avoid the paparazzi. He has that natural body control to quickly reach his top end speed and does a fine job of accelerating on the cut to gain separation. He is perfectly capable of executing the “juke,” but it is his lateral quickness that will see him disappear from would-be tacklers. He sets up the defender and runs off blocks like a big back, thanks to his loose hips and foot work needed to avoid. He can cut on a dime and the thing you see on film is his ability to do it at full speed! He has above average vision, quick change of direction agility and more than enough explosiveness to his burst to consistently make the first tackler miss…GRADE-7.6
This is the most pleasant surprise to his game and newest addition – raw power. During his rehab from knee surgery, the extra hours in the training room turned him into a little tank, with Ferrari-like speed. He runs with a low pad level, displays proper balance to break quite a few tackles along the way (see 2009 Marshall, Northern Iowa and South Dakota State games). He will lower his shoulder on contact to drive through the initial tackle and with his lower body strength, he has become a very good “thumper.” He runs through arm tackles consistently and also has a nice stiff-arm to keep defenders away from his body. He runs hard and at the proper pad level, especially when he nears contact. He keeps the ball secure when blasting through arm tackles and it is difficult to rock him back, as he has very good body lean to fall forward…GRADE-7.2
Tendency to Fumble
In 579 collegiate carries, Karim has never put the ball on the ground. Like Tiki Barber, he runs with the ball with great security and knows how to distribute it to keep it away from oncoming defenders. He shows good concentration running with the ball and has that natural upper body strength to protect it running through traffic. He does a good job of protecting the ball turning the corner, never leaving the sphere exposed…GRADE-8.2
Karim is not in a system where the receiver is required to catch the ball much, but he does an adequate job of extending and plucking outside his frame. He shows good flexibility getting into his routes and makes decent adjustments to snare the toss in his hands. More reps are needed, but he is effective when used on screens, options and in controlled routes. He has the burst needed to separate and does a nice job of keeping eye relationship on the ball, timing his leaps to get to the pass at the high point…GRADE-5.8
Karim shows good acceleration getting into his routes and the hand usage to avoid the jam. He has a good concept and feel for the route’s progression and does a nice job of separating working underneath (see 2009 Western Illinois game). He is just not used on a wide variety of routes to truly evaluate here…GRADE-5.6
Because of his size, Karim is limited as an in-line blocker, but he does show good effort and face-up ability blocking vs. edge rushers. He has good “warrior” mentality and will take on bigger athletes, but at the next level, he could be walked back by a stronger opponent. He keeps his hands inside his frame and won’t whiff or duck his head on contact, but is better with the ball in his hands than lead blocking. Still, despite his shorter-than-ideal height, he gives good effort as a blocker. He’s a sound technician who will not hesitate picking up the pass rush or blitz at the line of scrimmage. He squares his shoulders properly to take on his target, striking with a strong hand punch. In the open, he is effective cutting down linebackers. He’s usually aligned deep at tailback and is not asked to run block, but he steps up aggressively on pass protection to face up and sustain…GRADE-5.7
Karim has proven that he has the speed, vision and cutting ability to take the ball “to the house” as a kickoff returner (see 2009 Southwest Baptist, Western Illinois and Indiana State games). He runs with very good hip snap and has the vision to spot the crease and burst through it. He is a valid candidate to continue as a returner at the next level… GRADE-7.3
TIKI BARBER-ex-New York Giants…Like Barber, Brian Westbrook and Leon Washington, do not discount Karim’s ability as a power runner due to his size. He has a nice blend of strength and low pad level to push the pile taking the ball up the gut. His speed is evident by the opposition’s inability to stop him once he gets into the second level. He is still a work in progress as a receiver, but with his excellent return duties, teams will see he is much more than just a change-of-pace back.
Karim has started ten of the 23 games he appeared in at Southern Illinois (19 on offense), as he rushed 251 times for 1,625 yards (6.47 ypc) and nineteen touchdowns, scoring again on an 11-yard fumble recovery return, adding 316 yards and a touchdown on nine kickoff returns (35.11 avg) and 151 yards on 15 receptions…In nineteen games at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Karim registered 1,891 yards behind 328 carries (5.77 ypc) that included 22 touchdowns, as he also had 27 receptions for 315 yards (11.67 avg) and a score…For his collegiate career, he has 579 rushing attempts for 3,516 yards (6.07 ypc) and 41 touch-downs, averaging 92.53 yards per game (offense only) on the ground…Also caught 42 passes for 466 yards (11.10 avg) and a score while amassing 4,298 all-purpose yards on 630 touches (102.33 yards per game/6.82 yards per attempt)…His 1,625 yards rushing rank 17th in school history, surpassing John Randle (1,563 yards, 2006-07)…Produced five consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing in 2009…His six 100-yard rushing efforts in 2009 rank tied with Tom Koutsos (2000), Coe Bonner (1996) and Muhammad Abdulqaadir (2002) for seventh place on the SIU season-record chart…That gave him seven 100-yard performances for his career, tying Bob Hasberry (1969) and Walter Poole (1978-81) for the eighth-best all-time total by a SIU runner…His average of 6.47 yards per rushing attempt ranks behind Brandon Jacobs (6.61 ypc, 2004) on the school all-time record list…In just 19 offensive appearances at SIU, Karim has rushed for nineteen touchdowns, tying Brandon Jacobs (2006) for eighth in school history…The tailback gained 273 yards rushing vs. Illinois State in 2009, the third-highest game total in school history behind Andre Herrera (319 vs. Northern Illinois, 1976) and Muhammad Abdulqaadir (312 vs. Eastern Michigan, 2002)…That 273 yards also placed him in a sixth-place tie with Herb Donaldson of Western Illinois (vs. Missouri State in 2008) on the Missouri Valley Football Conference game-record list… Joined Abdulqaadir, Herrera, Warner, Karlton Carpenter, Arkee Whitlock and Anthony Perry as the only players in school history to rush for over 200 yards twice in a career…His 93-yard rushing attempt vs. Illinois State in 2009 set the school record, topping his 92-yarder vs. Western Illinois the previous game that had broken the previous Salukis record-long carry of 85 yards by Anthony Herrera vs. Northern Illinois in 1976… Karim is the only player in conference history to produce two runs for 90 yards or better in both a season and a career…His 310 all-purpose yards vs. Illinois State in 2009 placed fifth on the school game-record list…His average of 21.0 yards per rushing attempt vs. Southwest Baptist in 2009 shattered the old school game-record of 14.2 yards by Muhammad Abdulqaadir vs. Quincy in 2003…That 21.0-yard per carry average is also a Football Championship Sub-division game-record, topping the previous high average of 19.07 yards per attempt by Gene Brown of The Citadel vs. Virginia Military Institute in 1988 (15 carries for 286 yards)…His average of 7.08 yards per carry in 2009 is surpassed only by the school-record of 8.22 yards per attempt by Carver Shannon in 1957.
2009 Best Games Southwest Baptist, North Dakota State, Western Illinois, Illinois State, Western Illinois, South Dakota State.
2009 Worst Games Marshall, Youngstown State.
2007 Best Games Quincy, Southern Utah, Indiana State.
2007 Worst Games Youngstown State, Western Illinois.
All-American Super Sleeper Team and All-Missouri Valley Football Conference first-team mid-season selection by The NFL Draft Report…That scouting information service rates Karim as the best tailback in the Football Championship Subdivision ranks and the most under-rated running back eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft…Earned league Player of the Week honors and was chosen the Sport Network’s National Player of the Week for his performance in the Illinois State clash, again adding MFVC Player of the Week recognition after becoming the first player in 2009 to run for over 100 yards vs. South Dakota State… The tailback has been sensational through the team’s first nine games, as he ranks second in the nation in both all-purpose yardage (187.67 ypg) and rushing (137.67 ypg)…Ranks third in the conference and tied for 23rd nationally in scoring, averaging 8.00 points per game…Does not have enough kickoff returns to qualify for the national title (nine for 316 yards), but his average of 35.11 yards per return would place him at the top of the FCS list (only other FCS player to average over 30 yards per return in 2009 is Mareo Howard of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, with a 32.33-yard mark)…His 1,239 yards on the ground rank eighth on the school season-record list, as he carried 175 times (7.08 ypc)…His eleven touch-down runs are the tenth-best season total by a Saluki…Caught eleven passes for 134 yards (10.07 ypc) and amassed 1,689 all-purpose yards on 195 attempts (8.66 ypc)…His average of 7.08 yards per rushing attempt is the second-best season average in SIU annals…The only other 2009 FCS runners to be averaging over 7.0 yards per rushing attempt are Taiwan Jones of Eastern Washington (7.72 ypc, 117 for 903) and Curtis Pulley of Florida A&M (7.47 ypc, 119 for 889)…Became the third-fastest player to reach 1,000 yards rushing and the 18th Saluki to gain over 1,000 yards in a season…Holds the top two spots on the school record list for longest runs from scrimmage in school history, with a 92-yarder vs. Western Illinois and a 93-yarder the next week vs. Illinois State…60 of his rushing attempts produced first downs, as Karim reeled off 29 carries that gained at least ten yards, including 17 for 20 yards or longer…Has had key runs that set up nineteen SIU touchdown drives and on ten other possessions that ended with a field goal…On 54 of his non-touchdown runs (32.93%), it took more than one defender to stop Karim on that play… Made 21 positive runs inside the red zone, including eleven on goal-line plays…Caught 11-of-16 passes targeted to him (68.75%), as he had timely receptions that led to one other SIU touchdown and also one field goal.
2009 GAME ANALYSIS
Southwest Baptist…Karim set the school and NCAA FCS game-records for highest yards per carry average (21.0), as he handled the ball out of the backfield ten times for a then career-high 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also scored on an 82-yard kickoff return and caught one pass for a 2-yard loss, as he recorded 290 all-purpose yards in a 59-7 rout that saw the Salukis gained 435 of their 699 yards rushing…SW Baptist surprised SIU by scoring first and Karim made them pay for it, returning the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown…"When they scored, it stunned us all," he said. "When we got in that huddle on the kickoff return, I was fired up. So was Richard (White) and everybody else in the huddle. We said right then and there it was time to put that to an end and this is where it stops."…On the team’s first possession, the tailback broke free for a 34-yard run that would set up a Salukis 21-yard field goal…He then had carries of 18 and 9 yards on a 4-play series that Karim ended with a 6-yard touchdown burst…The second half opened with Karim exploding into the open, en route to a 61-yard touchdown jaunt…Karim said he was surprised to find out he only had 10 carries in the game, but he's more than willing to share the load with his teammates. "I think every one of the running backs we have could be that next great back," he said. "We all compete to get on the field, and I think that makes us better."…Record Watch-Karim’s average of 21.0 yards per carry topped the old NCAA FCS game-record of 19.1 yards by Gene Brown of The Citadel vs. Virginia Military Institute in 1988 and 14.2-yard average by Muhammad Abdulqaadir vs. Quincy in 2003…His 205 yards was then a career-best for the tailback, but he would later top that mark three games later, picking up 285 yards vs. Illinois State…His 82-yard kickoff return marked the fourth time during coach Dale Lennon’s era that a Saluki returned a kickoff for a touchdown…Head to Head Competition-MLB#44-Shawn Kilduff (6:02-233)-No tackles…Karim Offensive Impact-The tailback registered seven first-down runs, as five of his attempts were for at least 10 yards, including four for 20 yards or longer, setting up three touchdown drives and one other that produced a field goal…Had four positive runs inside the red zone, including one on a goal-line play and scored once on a kickoff return…Helped the team gain 435 yards with five touchdowns on 54 carries (8.06 ypc) and gain 699 total yards on 74 plays (9.45 yards per attempt).
Western Illinois…No matter what WIU tried to do, they could not contain the Salukis’ explosive tailback, as Karim amassed 282 all-purpose yards behind 18 carries for 157 yards that included one score, two receptions for 41 yards and a pair of kickoff returns for 84 yards that included an electrifying 69-yard runback…The senior runner had tallied 217 of those yards in the first two quarters of the 30-10 triumph…Included in that yardage was his school record 92-yard rushing attempt and career-long 42-yard catch…Karim wasted no time in setting the tone for the day, as he took a handoff on the contest’s first play from scrimmage and left the Leathernecks “eating dust” with a blazing 92-yard touchdown run…Later in the first frame, he ended a possession with a 3-yard touchdown through three defenders, as he had set up that score by returning the kickoff 69 yards… His second quarter 42-yard reception set up an SIU 43-yard field goal and he converted a third-&-1 snap into a 3-yard run and a first down to set up another field goal from 43 yards away…Record Watch-Karim’s 92-yard rushing attempt was the school’s longest run from scrimmage, topping the old record of 85 yards by Anthony Herrera vs. Northern Illinois in 1976…Head to Head Competition-MLB#12-Kyle Glazier (6:01-223)-Eight tackles (6 solos), one stop for a 1-yard loss and a 16-yard interception return…Karim Offensive Impact-The tailback registered seven first-down runs, as he converted one third-down carry and two attempts were for at least 10 yards, including one for 20 yards or longer, setting up two touchdown drives and one other that produced a field goal…Had three positive runs inside the red zone, including two on goal-line plays and set up another touch-down with a 69-yard kickoff return…Also set up a field goal with a third-down reception…On seven of his non-touchdown carries, it took more than one defender to bring him down…Helped the team gain 214 yards with two touchdowns on 37 carries (5.78 ypc) and gain 368 total yards on 61 plays (6.03 yards per attempt).
Illinois State…Karim was named National Player of the Week by the Sports Network, in addition to garnering league weekly accolades, as he generated 310 all-purpose yards that included a career-high 273 yards with three touchdowns on 28 carries (10.18 ypc), adding 4 yards on a reception and 33 yards on two kickoff returns in a 43-23 win…Along the way, he became the ninth player in the team’s storied history of great running backs to gain over 100 yards on the ground in four consecutive contests…"Deji was pretty impressive," head coach Dale Lennon said. "It's just one of those things that when you have a player like that offensively, it makes it difficult to defend."…To further put his “face” on the national awards banquet circuit, the dark horse for the Payton Trophy, given to the best player in the FCS ranks, Karim broke his own school record that he set the previous game when he raced from the SIU 7 with the ball for a 93-yard touchdown jaunt in the first quarter…He later closed out the opening frame with a 31-yard scoring scamper that was set up by his own runs of 6 and 7 yards…In the final frame, Karim broke for a 24-yard gain and two plays later, turned the corner for a 21-yard touchdown that capped a 51-yard, 3-play drive…Record Watch-Karim’s 93-yard touchdown run broke the record 92-yarder that he had set the previous week vs. Western Illinois…He also became the first player in school and league history to register two 90-yard runs in the same season and career…His 273 yards rushing was the third-highest game total in school history behind Andre Herrera (319 vs. Northern Illinois, 1976) and Muhammad Abdulqaadir (312 vs. Eastern Michigan, 2002)…That 273 yards also placed him in a sixth-place tie with Herb Donaldson of Western Illinois (vs. Missouri State in 2008) on the Missouri Valley Football Conference game-record list…Joined Abdulqaadir, Herrera, Warner, Karlton Carpenter, Arkee Whitlock and Anthony Perry as the only players in school history to rush for over 200 yards twice in a career…His 310 all-purpose yards rank fifth on the school game-record list behind Larry Warner (353 vs. Hampton and 321 vs. North Dakota in 2008) and Muhammad Abdulqaadir (331 vs. West Virginia Tech and 312 vs. Eastern Michigan in 2002)…His 310 yards rank 14th on the Missouri Valley Football Conference game-record chart…Head to Head Competition-MLB#23-Austin Davis (6:01-219)-Four solo tackles…Karim Offensive Impact-The tailback registered eleven first-down runs, as seven attempts were for at least 10 yards, including four for 20 yards or longer, setting up three touchdown drives and two others that produced field goals…Had two positive runs inside the red zone…On two of his non-touchdown carries, it took more than one defender to bring him down…Helped the team gain 339 yards with three touchdowns on 44 carries (7.70 ypc) and gain 613 total yards on 70 plays (8.76 yards per attempt).
Northern Iowa…If anyone wondered why teammates call Karim “The Horse,” they only need to review film of this 27-20 victory, as it took more than one defender to bring him down on thirteen of his carries. He became the sixth player in school history to produce five consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, totaling 125 yards on 24 attempts, as he scored once, set up another touch-down drive and had key carries that led to a pair of SIU field goals, having his hand in 18 of the team’s 27 points…He would end the first half with an SIU career-long 48-yard reception on a third-&-4 pass from Chris Dieker, as the tailback was tackled at the NIU 6…Karim’s 25-yard carry to start the second half led to Dieker’s 17-yard scoring strike to Bryce Morris, capping a 10-play, 68-yard possession…Steven Morse's fumble recovery on a fumbled punt set up Karim's 1-yard touchdown run on a fourth-&-goal snap to put Southern Illinois up 20-13 with five minutes to play…Record Watch-Karim rushed for over 100 yards for the fifth-straight game, becoming just the sixth Saluki ever to do so…Head to Head Competition-MLB#52-Elijah Hodge (6:01-227)-Six tackles (1 solo), one pass break-up…Karim Offensive Impact-The tailback registered nine first-down runs, as five attempts were for at least 10 yards, including three for 20 yards or longer, setting up two touchdown drives and two others that produced field goals…Had five positive runs inside the red zone, with four coming on goal-line plays…On thirteen of his non-touchdown carries, it took more than one defender to bring him down…Helped the team gain 171 yards with one touchdown on 39 carries (4.38 ypc) and gain 345 total yards on 68 plays (5.07 yards per attempt).
South Dakota State…Karim was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week, becoming the first player this year to rush for over 100 yards vs. the Jackrabbits, as the All-American hopeful set up two touchdown drives and had critical carries on a pair of other possessions that ended with field goals, amassing 127 yards on 21 attempts in a 35-15 victory that clinched a playoff berth and the top national ranking for SIU…SDSU threw everything but the “kitchen sink” at Karim, as it took more than one defender to stop him on twelve runs, three defenders to stop him on four carries and four opponents to take him down on two other attempts, proving that he is the complete package of speed and power…”The Horse,” as his teammates aptly call him, was simply unstoppable, as he first set up a 49-yard first quarter field goal, with his 11-yard burst being the featured play on that drive… Later in the opening frame, he converted a third-&-1 carry into a 3-yard first down that was followed by Joe Allaria’s 21-yard touchdown jaunt…Late in the second quarter, he broke four tackles on the way to a 41-yard gain, leading to a Salukis 22-yard field goal that staked SIU to a 20-3 lead…Record Watch-Karim increased his rushing yardage total to 1,239 for the 2009 campaign, surpassing Coe Bonner (1,234 in 1996) for eighth on the school season-record list…His 127 yards gave him 1,625 yards for the Salukis, moving ahead of John Randle (1,563 yards, 2006-07) for 17th in school history…His 127 yards marked the sixth time in 2009 that he past the century mark in a game, tying Tom Koutsos (2000), Coe Bonner (1996) and Muhammad Abdulqaadir (2002) for seventh place on the SIU season-record chart…That gave him seven 100-yard performances for his career, tying Bob Hasberry (1969) and Walter Poole (1978-81) for the eighth-best all-time total by a SIU runner…Karim saw his string of seven consecutive games with at least one touchdown run snapped…Head to Head Competition-MLB#43-Chris Johnson (6:02-241)-Two assisted tackles, one QB pressure…Karim Offensive Impact-The tailback registered six first-down runs, as three attempts were for at least 10 yards, including two for 20 yards or longer, converting two third-down carries while setting up two touchdown drives and two others that produced field goals…On 12 of his non-touchdown carries, it took more than one defender to bring him down…Helped the team gain 280 yards with one touch-down on 43 carries (6.51 ypc) and gain 388 total yards on 62 plays (6.26 yards per attempt).
Karim was granted a medical red-shirt after suffering a partial tear of his patella tendon in his left knee during spring drills…He eventually underwent surgery two months later.
Karim enrolled at Southern Illinois, appearing in fourteen games, including the first ten contests on offense…Also performed on the punt coverage team…Finished third on the team with 386 yards on 76 carries (5.08 ypc), as his eight touchdown runs ranked second on the squad…Recovered a fumbled punt that he advanced 11 yards for a score and made four catches for 17 yards, amassing 403 all-purpose yards (33.58 ypg)…31 of his rushing attempts produced first downs, as he converted 4-of-7 third-down and both of his fourth-down carries…Registered nine runs for at least ten yards, including three for 20 yards or longer…Had key carries that set up fourteen touchdown drives and two other possessions that ended with SIU field goals…On 25 of his non-touchdown runs, it took more than one defender to bring him down (36.77%)…Had twelve carries for positive yardage inside the red zone, including five on goal-line plays…Caught 4-of-5 passes thrown to him, including three on third-down tosses.
Karim was a standout tailback at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (2005-06), as he earned NJCAA All-American honorable mention as a freshman and was an All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference choice, along with receiving All-District VI and All-Region honors for the Norsemen during his sophomore campaign, as he finished that year ranked ninth in the national junior college ranks in rushing…Averaged 5.77 yards on 328 carries for 1,891 yards and 22 touchdowns in nineteen games, adding 27 receptions for 315 yards (11.67 avg) and a score.
2008 Season…Suffered a partial tear of the patella tendon in his left knee during spring drills…Was slow to recover from the injury and eventually underwent surgery two months later, forcing him to sit out the entire season.
2009 Season…Limped off the field in the third quarter with an ankle sprain vs. Youngs-town State (10/24).
CAMPUS AGILITY TESTS
4.37 in the 40-yard dash (hand-held)…4.46 in the 40-yard dash (electronic)…1.47 10-yard dash…2.53 20-yard dash…4.23 20-yard shuttle…11.63 60-yard shuttle…6.93 three-cone drill…34-inch vertical jump…9’4” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times.
Attended Putnam City North (Oklahoma City, Okla.) High School, earning All-State, All-District II and All-Region Class 6A honors as a senior…That season, Karim scored 28 touchdowns and gained 2,065 yards rushing…Added 1,254 yards and 20 touchdowns during his junior campaign, ranking sixth in the Oklahoma Class 6A ranks…“We’ve been known to have some great tailbacks here at North,” said PCN head coach Bob Wilson. “And Deji is the most versatile back I’ve ever coached. He can do so many different things from different positions.”
Recreation major…Son of Tai and Lanre Karim…Born 11/18/86…Resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.