Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whither Rodney Stewart

With his brilliant collegiate career coming to a close Friday afternoon, I thought it would be a good time to consider the legacy of one Rodney Stewart.

He's come a long way from the unheralded and mostly disregarded recruit from the much-hyped '08 recruiting class.  Doomed to toil at the football backwater that is Eastern Washington, Speedy jumped at the chance to sign with a BCS school when CU came calling late in the process.  He showed up on campus and, to the shock of most outsiders, immediately took hold of the running back job.  Darrell Scott and Ray Polk be damned, Speedy was so good even Hawk couldn't ignore his talent, and significant playing time was awarded early.  By the 3rd game of his collegiate career, Rodney Stewart was dropping a 28 carry, 168 yard performance on #21 West Virginia on national TV. 
Speedy has been the focal point of the CU offense since he first burst onto the scene against West Virginia.
Having seen are there is to see of the Big XII in the 2000s, I couldn't help but compare him favorably to Quintin Griffin and Darren Sproles; undersized backs who used elusiveness and speed to do everything they could to help their team on offense.  He runs hard, constantly looking for a seam to slip past would-be defenders.  He has also developed as a deadly threat in the passing game, able to come out of the back-field on screens and wheels to decimate linebacker-based coverage.  The very type of versatile back that a pro-style offense is looking for.
He does whatever it takes to get past the defense.
After four years of effort and exhaustive work, Speedy has amassed one of the more impressive statistical careers in CU history.  With one game yet to be played, Speedy's career totals stand at 3,563 rushing yards, 959 receiving, 261 return yardage, and 37 passing (2-2 with 2 TD's); all while accounting for 27 total scores (25 rushing and the two passing).  Already the all-time CU leader in all-purpose yardage, Speedy also finds himself near the top in rushing yardage and holds career titles in receptions and receiving yards from a Buffs runner.  Additionally, he will probably become just the 27th player in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 yards, while receiving over 1,000.  He is no joke, and deserves every amount of praise us fans can heap upon his diminutive shoulders.
He's meant everything to the Buffs the last couple of years, and there's never been a more deserving Buffalo Heart Award Winner.  From: the Post.
The question then becomes, where do we place him amongst the pantheon of CU greats.  More specifically, while it is certainly granted that Speedy has had a career that statistically stands up to the running legends up on The Hill, where does he rank in a more qualitative sense?

Now, in case you haven't noticed, CU has a deep and proud tradition of producing running backs of high-caliber.  Names like White, Anderson, Davis, Bieniemy, Salaam, Warren, Brown, Purify, and Charles litter the Buffs record book and have been featured on pro rosters.  There is a reason, afterall, that career rushing stats are listed first in the CU media guide.

The problem I have when I compare Rodney to these guys is the era in which Speedy played - or more like the error.  Playing the vast majority of his career under Hawk and his losin' crew, Speedy never appeared in a bowl game, and never played on a winning team.  In fact, his career record in games he participated in is a shockingly bad 14-28.
His career was marked with far too little celebrating.
Unfortunately, CU never made enough of the efforts of Speedy Stewart, garnering far too little scoreboard success out of his on-field excellence.  I don't think it's Speedy's fault.  I never felt that he was a choke artist or any bullshit like that, it's just that the teams he played for - excelled for - stunk ass. As a result, I have to place Speedy a level below names like Bieniemy, Salaam, White and Anderson; players who not only succeed with their personal performance, but who helped their teams succeed on the scoreboard as well.

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