By David Furones
Special to the Miami Herald
Though not much of a surprise, Duke Johnson announced on Sunday that he will enter the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season with the Miami Hurricanes.
“I will be going to the NFL next year,” said Johnson in a news conference at UM’s Mann Auditorium inside the SchwartzCenter. “In the NFL, backs don’t really get too much value, so I think it’s best that I leave and get a jump while I can and do what’s best for me.”
The announcement came after Miami's 24-21 loss Saturday to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
The 5-9, 206-pound junior running back finishes his collegiate career as UM’s all-time leading rusher (3,519 yards) and the program’s leader in career all-purpose yards (5,523) in 33 games as a Cane.
Johnson says it was a tough decision for him because of his passion for the program, but the short shelf-life of running backs in the NFL ultimately was the key.
“Of course there was back and forth,” he said. “As a kid, I always wanted to come here, love it, didn’t want to leave it. At the same time, the life for running backs isn’t that high. I think it’s best to get out when I can.”
Projected as a second or third-round pick, there was no need for Johnson to continue to put his body at risk without getting paid to do so after a broken ankle ended his sophomore season five games early.
“I broke my ankle, so that was enough thought for me,” Johnson said. “It was something I don’t want to go through again, so I think that was a decision that played a part – injury and is it worth the risk?”
Duke’s announcement came on his mother’s 45th birthday, and he said it’s one of his presents to her.
“I think it’s special in a way because we didn’t know which bowl game we were going to and I knew I wasn’t really going to make a decision until after the bowl game and it just happened to fall on her birthday,” Johnson said. “I think it’s a blessing.”
He looks forward to being able to provide for his mother and grandmother, who he says provided so much for him in his upbringing.
“Everything I do is for her – her and my grandmother, who sacrifice so much,” Johnson said. “My grandmother is someone who actually took care of me a lot when my mom was at work and was trying to find a better way for us. This decision is made for them too, just to help them out and put them in a better situation because of all the hard work they did for me and my family growing up.”
Johnson will continue taking classes toward his degree in the spring.