Now, there is, of course, a caveat where I tell you that Josh Johnson’s likely future elite status in Warhawk history is just as much an indictment of the history of ULM running backs as it is of Johnson’s talent, but let’s not worry about that right now.
Johnson spent his first season of collegiate ball playing at Coahoma Community College. If that sounds familiar, Coahoma is down South and appeared in the first season of Last Chance U as one of the hard-luck teams that got their butts kicked by EMCC. They were 1-12 from the start of the 2013 season through that 2015 game that aired on LCU, and they went 1-14 the rest of that season and the next.
In Johnson’s lone season they improved all the way to 2-7 before falling back to earth, but his performance there (1,101 yards and eight TDs in nine games) got him a nice list of offers, including every Sun Belt school except Texas State, Louisiana and Coastal Carolina.
He wound up at ULM, and was used sparingly last season, with only 20 touches for 70 yards the entire season. This season, however, has been a different story.
This year, Josh has been the man. In six games, he’s rushed for at least 110 yards four times, and it hasn’t just been an accumulation of volume – Florida State (4.8) is the only team so far to hold him under five yards per carry.
He’s got eight carries of 20+ yards and a number of short-yardage and goal-line successes, and if he were a better receiver he’d likely be a three-down back.
What’s this got to do with the record books? Well, Johnson now has 712 rushing yards this season, which by itself would put Johnson 23rd all-time in Warhawk career rushing yards.
He’s only the 10th Warhawk to ever rush for more than 700 yards in a season, several of whom were quarterbacks, and with half a season remaining he is less than 300 yards away from only the fifth 1,000-yard season in ULM history.
If Johnson keeps his current pace, he’ll end the season in the vicinity of 1,500 yards, which would put him 11th all-time in school history. The next tier of the list is crowded, so a strong bowl game and/or Sun Belt title game would catapult him within shouting distance of the top five.
This historical run is also in part due to the fact that the Warhawks have only ever had three players rush for 2,000+ career yards, so Johnson returning for his senior season would likely mean cemented status as the best to ever carry the rock in Monroe.
Johnson should continue to be fun to watch, as he avoids the best run defense in the conference and still has a couple other potential softies on the list, but it’s been a pleasant surprise so far to see the offense clicking and producing behind Johnson’s emergence.