Donnel Pumphrey measures in at 5-foot-9, 170-pounds and was not heavily recruited coming out of high school, so he never anticipated being a Heisman candidate during his senior year at San Diego State, but when you rush for 5,518 career yards like Pumphrey has, people take notice.
“I definitely didn’t know that I would be in the same situation that I am right now,” Pumphrey told The Jim Rome Show on Wednesday. “I just came in and was ready to work and based off the opportunities that were given to me, I just tried to take advantage, and I tried to stay in the film room and just look at guys who were in front of me like Adam Muema and Ronnie Hillman. Those were great backs here at San Diego State, and just watching them, you’re able to learn pretty fast, and going against a defense like ours helps you a lot, because we had a top 5 defense last year and just going against them everyday and competing, it makes me a better back everyday.”
Earlier this month in San Diego State’s 17-3 win over Fresno State, Pumphrey passed Herschel Walker, Archie Griffin, and LaDainian Tomlinson among others to become 9th on the list of all-time FBS rushing yards. Pumphrey said he’s honored to be mentioned with the legends on the list, but takes special meaning in passing one.
“LaDanian Tomlinson, specifically. That’s my favorite running back since Day 1, I mean I grew up watching him,” the 21-year-old said. “That’s the reason why I’m a San Diego Chargers fan now is LaDanian Tomlinson. I mean it’s just fun watching those guys play and just to have my name up there with those, it’s incredible, and I just really thank all my teammates and everybody surrounding me, who’s guided me through the position that I am in here today.”
If Pumphrey’s play led to an invite to New York later this year for the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, it’s something the senior would find honor in.
“It’d actually mean a lot to me just to be able to be one of those top four guys in college football,” Pumphrey said about the possibility of being named a finalists. “It would be great just for the program and the recognition itself. That would be very special for me and my mom as well. My mom always dreamed of something like that.”
Pumphrey is also aware of the chatter about how he might be too small for the NFL, and the running back looks forward to once again proving doubters wrong, regardless of position.
“I mean I’ve been doubted my whole life with my size,” Pumphrey said. “That’s just another ingredient added to the motivation, that’s continuing to push me. But I mean, at the next level, anywhere where the coaches want to put me, I’m dedicated to play in. Whether it’s slot, catching kicks or punt returns, or running back, I’m down to play. My dream at the end of the day is to play in the NFL with the best of the best and the opportunity, I feel like it’s coming ahead of me and I’m ready.”