Surrounded by a whirlwind of rumors and speculation, Miami Hurricanes junior running back Duke Johnson announced Sunday that he would forgo senior year at the University of Miami to enter the 2015 NFL draft.
The Palm Beach Post first reported Saturday that Johnson’s mother, Cassandra Mitchell, told the newspaper that her son would turn pro. These reports were left unconfirmed by Johnson until the press conference held Sunday at the Schwartz Center in Coral Gables, Fla.
The NFL draft begins April 30, 2015. Johnson is expected to be selected between the first and third rounds, according to draft experts.
Johnson totaled 26 touchdowns and 3,519 rushing yards during his Canes career. He also has the ACC’s 2014 Brian Piccolo Award under his belt, among his many accomplishments at the U. The award recognizes the “most courageous” football player in the ACC.
This season, Johnson battled back from a 2013 injury that put an end to his successful sophomore season. During a game against Florida State, he fractured his fibula and dislocated an ankle in the fourth quarter. That year, he ran for 920 yards in the eight games he started.
During 2014, Johnson bounced back and was ranked among the nation’s top rushing leaders throughout the season.
Johnson was recognized as the ACC Offensive Back of the Week on Oct. 27. That week, he rushed for a career-high 249 yards on 29 carries and led the Canes to a 30-6 victory over Virginia Tech.
With those numbers, Johnson became the first Miami running back since Willis McGahee in 2002 to surpass 200 rushing yards in a game, and only the fourth player in school history to do so.
Johnson finished the regular season schedule second in the ACC, with 1,520 yards in 12 games. He also made the University of Miami’s all-time rushing list.
Including Saturday’s performance at the Duck Commander Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., Johnson has tallied a total of 1,652 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Johnson was the top rusher in the 24-21 bowl game loss against South Carolina, with 24 carries for 132 yards.
Late in the fourth quarter Saturday, Johnson needed assistance on the field and appeared to have an injury to his right leg. He did not return to the game but remained on the sideline.