University of Miami running back Duke Johnson can add another accomplishment to his already impressive résumé.
Johnson was named the 2014 recipient of the Brian Piccolo Award, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday.
The Piccolo Award has been given annually by the ACC to the “most courageous” football player in the conference. Piccolo, who played at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High and Wake Forest University, was the ACC Athlete of the Year in 1964 and played four years for the Chicago Bears before dying of cancer in 1970.
Johnson, a junior, sustained a serious leg injury last year in early November against Florida State and underwent surgery, ending his 2013 season and keeping him 80 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season – with five full games remaining.
The ACC news release on Thursday said Johnson “suffered a fractured fibula and a dislocated ankle” last November. Johnson and his family have said it was a broken ankle since last year.
“I’m still amazed,” Johnson’s mother, Cassandra Mitchell, said Thursday afternoon. “Coming back from an injury like that, going through the emotional ride he took, I’m extremely proud to see him win this award.’’
This season he came back with a vengeance, gaining at least 100 yards in six consecutive games during one stretch and finishing the regular season ranked second among ACC rushers with 1,520 yards as he passed Ottis Anderson in becoming UM’s all-time rusher with 3,387 career yards.
“To come back from this type of injury is in and of itself a great accomplishment,” Miami coach Al Golden said in the release. “To come back bigger, faster, stronger and better is truly remarkable. We could not be more proud of Duke Johnson. The sacrifice and determination he exhibited during his nine month rehabilitation exemplifies why he is considered one of the game’s elite running backs.”
Johnson is the fourth Miami player to receiver the Brian Piccolo Award and first since defensive end Shayon Green in 2012. The others: Frank Gore in 2004 and Glenn Sharpe in 2006.
T. Kendall “Ken” Hunt, who earned a football letter from the University of Miami in 1962, has made a gift of $1.5 million to endow a scholarship to a Hurricanes running back.
“As a young man, I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship to play football for the University of Miami,” Hunt said. “That scholarship meant everything to me. No one in my family had ever gone to college. This was my way forward. I used the education that I received from Miami to better myself. I guess you could say that I have been successful in business. Now, I give back to the U with an endowed scholarship for the next Ken Hunt.”
His goal of playing professional football came to an abrupt end following his sophomore season when he was accidently shot above his left ankle at a sport-shooting range, leaving him unable to continue playing football. The University honored Hunt’s scholarship despite the fact that he was not physically able to play on the football team for his four years at UM.