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Duke Johnson, Contributor - The Players' Tribune
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For Hire: Explosive Back Who Just Needs a Seam

Duke Johnson, Contributor - The Players' Tribune

Randy “Duke” Johnson
Running Back
University of Miami

For the consideration of NFL teams,

As a three-year starting running back for the University of Miami, I believe my experience in a pro-caliber offense, ability to take hard hits and my skills as a kick returner make me the perfect fit for your team.

At 5’9″ and 207 pounds, I’m on the smaller side for an NFL back. I can’t help it. But I wouldn’t have made it to this point if my size held me back from making plays. A lot of guys I play against have this idea that I’m timid and don’t want to get hit. But just watch when a linebacker gets a big lick on me — the first thing I do is bounce back up and tell them, “You’ve got to come harder!”

I’m from Liberty City, Florida, and growing up in a rough place like that makes you want to go out do something with your life. It’s about finding a way out so that you and your family can survive. I look at those who did it, guys like Teddy Bridgewater, who came from not the best neighborhood but didn’t make excuses and just found a way. That’s all I’m trying to do.

I’m a running back by trade, but I have the mentality of a hard-hitting safety. Growing up, I always had eyes for the Miami defense. With those guys, not only were they unafraid of contact, it looked like they loved it. That’s something I was able to identify with. We’re constantly told that the NFL is a grown man’s game, but I feel like I’ve always played like a grown man.

For this reason, I believe that I’m the next great running back to come out of Miami. Yes, I fully understand how big the footsteps I’m following in are. Running backs that come through The U realized what it took to play there. It’s no coincidence that they’ve been successful at the next level. Guys like Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James and Frank Gore laid out a blueprint for how to handle business. When you’re a running back at Miami, making it to the NFL is an expectation rather than a goal. I have a legacy to live up to.

I feel like I’ve done my part. One game I’m particularly proud of happened against Virginia Tech last season when I ran for 249 yards and scored two touchdowns. Virginia Tech focused on stopping the pass and basically said, “You’re going to have to beat us running.” So we did.

My best skill is my instincts, just the way I move fluidly. It’s the tool I rely on most when I’m running. The way I recognize and exploit holes and seams in the defense isn’t something that’s taught, it comes naturally to me. I read and react. These natural instincts are part of the reason I’d love the opportunity to return kicks in the NFL.

My freshman year, Virginia had just scored a touchdown and our coach told me we needed to capitalize on the return. With this in mind, I took the kickoff and found a seam.

Touchdown. I haven’t gotten any slower since then and all I need is that tiny bit of daylight to break free. Field position is so important, and there’s no greater satisfaction than shredding an opponents coverage unit to set up your offense.

I played in a pro-style offense for three years, but I’m very intrigued by the idea of playing in a spread because it would allow me to show off my versatility. If you can put me in a situation where a linebacker has to try and cover me in open space, that’s going to be a good situation for your offense. I rushed for more than 1600 yards last season against loaded boxes in the ACC, but I think I can do even more damage in the open field.

Whatever needs to be done, I can get it done. People may judge my size, say I’m small, but at the end of the day, I have the heart to play at the highest level.

Thank you very much for your consideration, and I look forward to scoring touchdowns for you soon.

Best regards,

Randy “Duke” Johnson

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