There are 24 days remaining in our Countdown to Kickoff! The 2018 season is coming up quick for the Oklahoma Sooners, and speaking of quick, I want to talk about one of the more beloved Sooners of the Barry Switzer era, as well as the go-to guy in today’s Sooner backfield. That’s right, I’m talking about running backs Joe Washington and Rodney Anderson.
I’ll get things started with Little Joe. From 1972-75, Joe Washington was known for many things. The dazzling Houdini-like moves, the jaw-dropping body control, and perhaps most of all, those silver shoes.
Many Sooner fans regard Washington as one of the better running backs to come through Oklahoma, and that’s a mouthful, considering the program’s archives are overflowing with some of the best the game of college football has ever seen. It shows the amount of respect Sooners have for Washington, who performed at the highest levels with nothing but class.
After a strong freshman campaign in 1972, Joe Washington was ready to become the Sooners’ No. 1 option on offense. Washington recorded his first thousand-yard season as a sophomore, then followed it up with a career best 1,321 yards in Oklahoma’s 1974 national championship season and 944 yards in a second consecutive national title winning year.
Washington was named a Consensus All-American in ‘74 and ‘75, and finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Heisman Trophy voting. Ask anybody who was in Norman at the time, and they’ll tell you the fact that Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won the award over Washington not once but twice is quite controversial, but that’s a can of worms we can dive into another time.
Today, Washington is Oklahoma’s third all-time leader in rushing yards as well as all-purpose yardage with 4,071 rushing yards and 5,881 all-purpose yards. In the 1976 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers selected Washington with the fourth overall pick, making him the second running back taken in the draft. For the record, five tailbacks were taken ahead of Archie Griffin in that draft. I’m just saying.
As a pro, Washington made a living as a highly productive player in the league for nine seasons with the Chargers, the Baltimore Colts, the Washington Redskins, and the Atlanta Falcons. In 1979, Washington led the NFL in receptions (82), which is also the season of his lone Pro Bowl appearance. As a Redskin, Washington made the 1981 All-Pro Team, and won Super Bowl XVII.
Fun fact: Joe Washington is the only player to ever throw for a touchdown, catch a touchdown pass, and return a kick for a touchdown all in the same game.
For his pro career, Washington totaled 4,839 rushing yards and 3,413 receiving yards for a combined 30 touchdowns. It was a remarkable collegiate and professional playing career for Joe Washington, who in turn is one of the most remarkable talents to ever grace Owen Field.
From the past to the present, Rodney Anderson has done the No. 24 proud, and he’s not done yet. After starting his Sooner career with not one but two season-ending injuries (leg and neck), many wondered if Anderson would ever contribute to the team, let alone play the sport again. Not only did Anderson play again, he exploded onto the scene.
His first fully healthy season finally happened in 2017, and through the first six games, Anderson still hadn’t eclipsed 50 rushing yards in a game. That changed in a big way on October 21st in Manhattan, Kansas. Anderson rushed for 147 yards and the game-winning touchdown, and the player Sooner fans had been waiting for years to see finally made his presence felt.
That K-State game was the night Anderson splashed onto the scene, then a few days later Anderson made a splash of a more literal kind when he showed off the kind of ups he’s working with.
If that wasn’t enough, he also did this last month:
I don’t know which is more impressive, but considering it’s all Rodney Anderson, the same guy who broke his leg and his neck, that’s a testament to the rehab staff as well as Anderson’s natural gifts as an elite athlete.
From that point of the 2017 season onward, the Katy, TX native continued to put up monster numbers both on the ground as well as receiving out of the backfield. By season’s end, Anderson accumulated 1,161 rushing yards on 188 carries for 13 TDs, and made 17 receptions for 281 yards and five more scores.
What makes Rodney Anderson such a phenomenal player is the mixture of his obvious strength and power running between the tackles combined with his soft hands and above average top end speed. Anderson is also a back that gets stronger throughout a game. I won’t be surprised to see more of the same from the latter portion of the 2017 season this fall.
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