Given the recent tradition/memories of the last two players to wear the famed #5 in Champaign: Mikel Leshoure (a Detroit Lions rookie who will miss the season with an injury) and the Pittsburgh Steelers Rashard Mendenhall (who’s developed into a Pro Bowl, 1,000 yard rusher style NFL back) it’s easy to see why the jersey number is starting to take on a special meaning for Illinois Fighting Illini football.
The orange and blue #5 is developing into a new, stellar tradition in college football and Donovonn Young is the next in line for the Illini.
“they (the coaching staff) fell that I could fit in that number and I used to wear #5 my freshman year of high school, so I guess it’s a good fit,” Young said of how/when he got the famed number 5. The two men who wore it in front of him each broke the Illinois single season rushing record. The jersey number is also being used on defense this season, as starting free safety Steve Hull sports it.
Young had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career and became the first Illini freshman running back since 2008 to break the century mark with 100 yards on 12 carries (8.3 ypc) against the Broncos. He had a career-long 59-yard run and a 14-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter. Young is the second Illini to earn conference Freshman of the Week honors this season, joining linebacker Houston Bates, who was recognized after the week one win over Arkansas State.
“I got a lot more carries this week, and started seeing things start to slow down for me, and we executed,” Young said.
That’s right, Young is just a freshman, from Katy high school in Katy, Texas. Young’s favorite NFL running back is his hometown Houston Texans Arian Foster but he has met/conversed with Leshoure.
“He just told me to keep running hard and doing my thing, I didn’t get to meet him much but when I did meet him he was always a nice guy, always giving me advice,” Young said.
Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino described Young as “he’s a downhill tough hard-nosed guy.”
Ron Zook talked about the running back situation on Saturday.
“You’ve heard me say this a thousand times. You can’t have too many running backs. (Entering this week), I was excited for Josh Ferguson. He tweaked his hamstring a little bit. It probably is not bad, but we did not want to take a chance (by playing him today). You need them all. I can’t say enough about Troy Pollard. There is a guy who has just done a great job. He keeps his mouth shut. He does what he is supposed to do.
Of course, Donovonn (Young) comes in and gets his first 100-yard game as an Illinois football player. We need them all. We have to get better, obviously.”
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