We already did our quarterback pieces, and you voted. Now, running backs get the nod.
Brian: The theory behind Thunder is one of intrigue, and I suppose we’re putting him in here more out of sadness than anything. There was a lot to like about Thunder and how he played, but like his life in general, he just never got enough out of it before other circumstances got in the way.
Thunder came along to Nebraska by way of East Los Angeles CC, where he had a fairly decent 2001 season. Even though he’ll always be the man who pitched to Mike Stuntz on Black 41 Flash Reverse, Collins had a pretty good season, considering he was a 4th act to Eric Crouch, Dahrran Diedrich and Judd Davies. He went off for 165 yards against Baylor on October 13th, and many thought that his 2002 season would be a big one.
Unfortunately, he never saw much of the field that season. Thunder was suspended the first four games of the ‘02 season, and then quit the team. It wasn’t a spat with then HC Frank Solich, rather the fact that the stipend that Collins was getting was cut in half to less than $200/month. Add in the fact that Collins had taken in his younger brother to get out of the crime & gang in LA and Collins felt like he needed to get out to help save his brother.
Unfortunately, the only one needing to be saved was Collins. He is now serving a life sentence stemming from a September 2008 murder of a drug dealer in Omaha. I would like to wonder what it would have been like had Collins finished his eligibility, got his degree and tried the NFL. At the very least, he would have had something to fall back on.
On paper, Jordan Stevenson was a decent risk for Nebraska to take. He was a byproduct of being left out of Wisconsin’s class, and Nebraska picked up a four-star RB that was a top 200 composite player. And then the wheels came off.
Stevenson & the staff were planning on a redshirt, but Stevenson wanted on the field. So, the staff pulled it for some kickoff returns. Yes, only some. 1 vs. Wisconsin, 2 vs. Minnesota, 3 vs. Northwestern. He didn’t play vs. Purdue, and then quit the team the next week. Hell of a way to go through your time in Lincoln.
Last I knew, Stevenson was at Navarro JC in Texas, but a quick check of the roster doesn’t show him on it. I’m unsure where he’s going to play this year. Hopefully he got a carry there.
Update: Husker Mike found him. He is at Independence CC in Kansas City. 29 rushes for 103 yards, no TD’s and two fumbles last season.
Braylon Heard was another what-if project, but one has to wonder if Braylon didn’t just get a lot of bad advice throughout his college career. Heard came to Nebraska out of Cardinal Mooney HS in Youngstown, Ohio. He was legitimately a top 100 player out of HS, but was kind of pulled around a little bit by Tim Beck in Lincoln.
After a meh freshman year, Heard spent a spring at defensive back, but went back to running back for his sophomore season. With the graduation of Rex Burkhead, Braylon looked to be one of the guys to step up. BUT, that wasn’t to be as Braylon left Nebraska that January to go to Kentucky.
His Wildcats career started pretty well! The opening game of the 2014 season, Heard had two carries for 116 yards vs. Tennessee-Martin. However, it went downhill from there in a big way, only getting 250 yards on 70 carries the rest of the year.
What made the move even more bizarre is that, after Heard’s one season in Lexington, Heard declared for the NFL Draft. A draft that Heard was not chosen at. Heard signed a UDFA deal with Pittsburgh, but nothing came out of it.
DeAngelo Evans came to Nebraska from Wichita, setting the Kansas state rushing record ahead of one Barry Sanders, and in 1996 Evans started out fantastically. Getting almost the same amount of carries as Ahman Green, Evans held his end of the bargain well, going for 168 vs. Baylor and then 105 vs. Kansas. But, in 1997, he missed the entire season due to a groin injury, letting Green shine.
1998 was supposed to be a bounce back year for Evans, who was going to be the feature back. But, he only played three games the whole season due to injuries, and then in 1999 he was in two games before he left the team. Most say he quit, wanted to come back, and was dismissed by not only Frank Solich but also the Unity Council.
Evans went to Emporia State in Kansas. In a all-star game there, he was injured once again. That was the final straw in his career.
Marlon Lucky isn’t on this list because of what he did at Nebraska; he’s on this list because of what people said he would do at Nebraska. He came to Nebraska as the capstone of Bill Callahan’s 2005 recruiting class as a five-star running back out of North Hollywood, Calif. He was going to lead Nebraska to their sixth national championship; Lucky was going to be “the next Adrian Peterson.”
Well, nobody was “the next Adrian Peterson”; years later, football scouts are still looking for “TNAP” both in coming out of high school as well as coming out of college. Peterson is that good.
Marlon Lucky wasn’t quite that good. He wasn’t bad, mind you. He rushed for 2,393 yards and 22 touchdowns in four years at Nebraska, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Caught 135 passes for 1,379 yards and four touchdowns. His 4,214 career all-purpose yards ranks fourth all time at Nebraska.
Those are pretty good numbers...but not what fans expected when he arrived in 2005. It’s not Lucky’s fault, though Lucky paid the price. The pressure of fan expectations grew too heavy on Lucky’s shoulders, landing him in the hospital in early 2007. If not for the hype of 2004 and 2005, Lucky would be remembered as a good, not great I-back who was one of the highlights of the Callahan years.
That’s not Lucky’s fault. But clearly, Lucky never lived up to those expectations.
Who’s the most overrated Running Back of the past 20 years?
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