Duke Johnson promised 8-year-old Carter Hucks a game ball.
So as soon as Saturday’s 55-34 track meet with Cincinnati was over, Miami’s star running back raced back to the locker room and presented the Make-A-Wish kid who brightened up the Hurricanes’ week with his prize.
“He didn’t really say much,” Johnson said. “He just smiled.”
Hucks, scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant on Oct. 21, didn’t need to say much. His presence this week served as the kind of distraction the Hurricanes (4-3) welcomed.
With former players jumping on the radio to lodge their complaints on the state of the program under Golden and banners flying over the stadium calling for the coach’s firing, Hucks put everything into perspective for Johnson and the Hurricanes. In the end, life could be a lot worse off for everyone in Coral Gables. After all, they could be dealing with what Carter has to.
“It humbles you, it brings you back to reality if you start to feel sorry for yourself, start to get down, start to doubt yourself,” Golden said. “I thought he would leave an indelible mark on our team during the week, and he did. It uplifted us.”
Hucks made the trip from Charleston, South Carolina with his parents and spent three days practicing with the team, attending meetings and sitting in coach Al Golden’s office before serving as honorary captain Saturday.
He built a special bond with Johnson, his favorite player. On Saturday — just like he had all week — Hucks wore Johnson’s No. 8 jersey (with his own name across the back) and cheered the Hurricanes on.
It turns out he picked a great weekend to spend with UM because Johnson had a special day. He continued his surge up Miami’s record books, finishing with 178 all-purpose yards to become the school’s all-time leader.
His second carry of the game — an 80-yard touchdown run — moved him past Clinton Portis for fourth on UM’s all-time rushing list. It was also the longest run of Johnson’s career and the longest for UM since Portis broke off an 82-yard run against McNeese State on Aug. 31, 2000.
Johnson finished the game with 162 yards rushing on only 10 carries — the 10th time in his career he’s rushed for more than 100.
With four catches for 16 yards it added up to 178 all-purpose yards, which moved him past Ottis Anderson (4,265) and Santana Moss (4,394) for first on UM’s all-time list. It took Moss 41 games to set the previous mark. Johnson has only played in 27 games to rack up 4,427 all-purpose yards — and that without a single kickoff return this season.
“I’m excited, but I think my coaches and my teammates put me in the best position to get the record,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t do it by myself. From the moment I stepped on campus each coach, each running backs coach, each [offensive coordinator] and every teammate all had a part in this.”
That kind of modesty is what has always made his teammates respect him. It’s also why he has little fans everywhere.
Before the game, Hucks met with reporters in a pregame news conference. Asked why Johnson was his favorite player, Hucks responded with a smile and four words.
“Because he runs fast,” he said.