UM Lands a Loyal Mama's Boy and Record-Setting Running Back - NBC 6 South Florida

UM Lands a Loyal Mama's Boy and Record-Setting Running Back

Duke Johnson, a Miami Norland High senior, will be heading to the University of Miami for his college football career

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    UM Lands Mama's Boy and Record-Setting Running Back

    Duke Johnson, a Miami Norland High senior, will be heading to the University of Miami for his college football career. (Published Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012)

    There's nothing ordinary about the University of Miami's new highly touted running back Duke Johnson.

    His stats, his size, and his loyalty are all surprising.

    Despite being just 5-foot-9, the often underestimated Johnson was named Mr. Football this year, an award that's given to the state's top player. He led Miami Norland High School to a state championship, scoring 5 touchdowns in the title game, capping off a perfect 15-0 season.

    "That's a great way to end a high school career," Johnson said.

    Johnson averaged 10 yards per carry his senior season. That's a first down every time he touches the football.

    But even before his record-breaking season, the Hurricanes offered Johnson a scholarship at the start of his junior year. He quickly gave a verbal commitment.

    Since then, the University of Miami changed coaches and still faces potential NCAA sanctions from the Nevin Shapiro scandal, but Johnson never wavered.

    "Once he got to Miami," said Daryle Heidelburg, Johnson's head coach at Norland, "he wasn't worried about sanctions. He feels he's going to be the difference maker."

    Johnson's loyal commitment also had to do with being a mama's boy, and he isn't afraid to admit it.

    "My mom is a big part of my life and I'm not willing to leave her for four years," Johnson said. "I'm not sure how I'd adapt to that."

    When the top colleges in America kept courting Duke, including Les Miles at Louisiana State University and Urban Meyer after he got to Ohio State, Johnson said he'd rather focus on school and being a kid. In fact, it was his mom that didn't want to miss out on the attention.

    "My mom watched ‘The Blind Side,’ so she [saw] all the coaches coming to the house, so she wanted to experience that," Johnson recalled. "But really no matter where I wanted to go, she was behind me 100 percent."

    Johnson thinks about his mom on the field often, and how far he's come since playing for Liberty City Optimist.

    "During a hard day in practice, and you might wanna give up," he said, "I stop and think about the people who sacrificed for me. You don't want to let them down."

    Duke's real name is Randy (he was named after his great grandfather). But nobody calls him that, not even Mom.