The 2013 football season in Arizona produced a bumper crop of top college running backs, spread among the three D-I universities in the state. Each of the three schools graduated one of the best ever at that school.
And now they will all get their chance to prove they can take their game to the next level. Ka’Deem Carey from University of Arizona was the highest pick taken in the NFL draft over the weekend, going to the Chicago Bears with the 117th pick, while Arizona State‘s Marion Grice went at No. 201 to the San Diego Chargers. And Zach Bauman from Northern Arizona University will get his chance in the pro game after signing a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
To sweeten the deal for Arizona fans, two of the three are home-grown athletes, Carey from Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson and Bauman from Hamilton High in Chandler. Grice is an import from Houston, Tex., that took the JUCO route to Tempe.
How good was this talented trio? In his sophomore year, Carey led the nation in rushing (148.4 yards per game) and total yards (1,929). In the two years that Grice played at ASU he scored 234 points, which ranks as the highest two-season mark in school history. And Bauman graduated from NAU as the all-time leader in rushing yards, all-purpose yards, carries, and points scored.
Here are their credentials for being included with the best of the best:
Ka’Deem Carey… accumulated 26 single-game, season, and career records that he either owns outright or shares. They include the school and Pac-12 rushing records for a single game, 366 yards he posted as a freshman in a game against Colorado, as well as the school single-season rushing record of 1,929 yards, also set in 2012.
Not a big back at 5’9″ and just over 200 pounds, he nonetheless carried the load for the Wildcats both years he played in Tucson and rushed for 100 yards or more in every game during the 2013 season. He also became the only offensive player in program history to be named first-team All-American twice.
And he did more than carry the ball out of the backfield; he also provided the Cats with another weapon when used as a receiver. He caught 77 passes during his two seasons, adding 670 yards and four touchdowns through the air. If you combined his passing and receiving yardage just last season, he accounted for more than 2,000 yards of offense (and he missed the opening game on the schedule).
Marion Grice… became the first Sun Devil running back drafted by the NFL in the last six years when the Chargers took him in the sixth round. Despite missing the last three games of the 2013 season, he scored 20 touchdowns to become just the third player in program history to tally that many TDs. His 39 career touchdowns are fifth all-time in ASU history.
He piled up 3,045 all-purpose yards in two seasons, which contributed to his being named a finalist for the Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. The native Texan closed out his college career this season by scoring 120 points to put him in a tie for second-most in school history.
Zach Bauman… didn’t waste any time breaking school records at Northern Arizona, an FCS program that competes in the Big Sky Conference. By the end of his junior season he had become the first in program history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three consecutive seasons. And then he ran for 1,456 more yards as a senior to establish a record that may not be approached for a long time. There are just eight other players from FCS schools in the history of the game to reach that goal.
He finished the 2013 season with 1,764 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the Lumberjacks to their second consecutive 9-3 season and a second-place finish in the Big Sky. His senior season marked the first time in a decade that NAU made it into the post-season.
There’s no guarantee any of these three will find success in the NFL, but they’ve certainly left their mark on the college game.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)