By Stubbs Zanelli / @RivalsStubbs
What if I told you there is a running back who over the past two seasons rushed for more than 3,400 yards, scored 40 touchdowns, never missed a game, and the majority of the country has never heard of him?
Let me introduce you to Donnel Pumphrey, senior running back for San Diego State University.
Why is Pumphrey so unknown you may ask? Three reasons really:
- He is cursed by geography. Stuck in the Pacific Time Zone, many people only see stat lines the next morning and not the electrifying performances that produce them. Many SDSU games don’t even kick off until late into the evening in the Eastern Time Zone, rendering his performances out of sight and out of mind for college football fans.
- Mountain West disrespect. People have heard stories upon stories of small conference stars that were just “under recruited,” who “didn’t get the same chances” as the power five guys, The conclusion is they were big fish in small ponds. Pumphrey is fighting a stereotype, a stereotype that says no one from a small conference can really be that good.
- His home field isn’t blue. Boise State has ruled the “group of five” schools going on two decades, and most everyone assumes if something great is going to come from the G5’s they will have donned Boise blue and orange. Pumphrey is shattering that mold.
Pumphrey’s recognition is starting to grow, however. He was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year last year, along with honorable mention All-America by Sports Illustrated. And with this being Pumphrey’s senior season, you are seeing his name pop up more and more on mock NFL draft boards. He has even surfaced on a few Heisman dark horse lists.
If Pumphrey’s success continues, so will the growth of his recognition. Donnel is on the brink of taking down many records set by NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, another SDSU back. That alone will thrust Pumphrey into the national spotlight.
Until then he will go about his business like he has the past three years: quietly, methodically, transcendently.
He will continue to be a running back who averages six yards-per-carry, and 11 yards-per-catch. He will continue to play late into the night on the East Coast, racking up obscene yardage totals, and finding the end zone more often than seems possible. And he will continue to be the best player in college football that no one knows about.
That is, until everyone knows about him.
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.