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Football

Blum: The Tall Tale of Troy

Children, gather round and have a seat, let me tell you a story about Troy Davis and the Iowa State running game. What I’m telling you is hard to believe, but trust me I saw it with my own eyes.

There once was a man from Miami named Troy. He was a high school wrestling champion that also was a pretty good running back. All of the big schools wanted him. Troy visited sleepy Ames in the winter of 1994 when a monstrous blizzard struck. Troy had never seen a blizzard quite like that. He was so intrigued by the weather he committed to play football for Jim Walden and the struggling Cyclones. It was big news at the time. Even though there was no internet or recruiting rankings, word got around by these ancient things called papers and magazines. People even talked to each other via objects called home telephones. Texting didn’t exist. 

Troy was going to rescue the Iowa State running game.

Troy got to campus and Walden foolishly decided Troy needed to bide his time behind guys named Guggenheim, Branch, Knott and Garris. This made Troy unhappy and he almost left campus and went back home. Iowa State didn’t win a game in 1994 and Jim Walden was fired. Walden took his wishbone with him. The Cyclones hired Dan McCarney and made a pact to run a new offense that featured Troy. He agreed to stay on campus for one more year. It was a good move for Troy.

Twenty long years ago, the No. 1 song was Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. Look it up kids. It was an all-time classic. Even my momma thinks that my mind is gone. Anywho, Troy ran for 291 yards in his first career start against Ohio on a warm August night in 1995. It was an Iowa State record that he broke three weeks later when he ran for 302 yards in three quarters against UNLV. He was a machine. As the Godfather John Walters described him, “He was basically Mike Tyson in shoulder pads.”  Not the current face-tattoo-make-cameos-with-lions-weirdo-Tyson. The young, powerful and dominant Tyson.

Three-hundred yards by one guy is nuts. Troy ran for 300 plus yards two times in his career. Only Barry Sanders did that more often.

And this was on an Iowa State team with not much else. Iowa State had only three players with 10 or more catches in 1995, including the underrated Ed Williams. You know how Paul Bunyan had Babe the Blue Ox? Well Troy had some of his own big ole sidekicks like Tim Kohn and Pat Augufa and they could clear some space with their gigantic shoulder pads. I miss those guys.

Just think about this. Troy ran for 300 yards or more twotimes. Iowa State has run for 300 yards or more as a team just once since 2001. Yep, one darn time against Texas Tech in 2011. One time in 14 years. One time in 175 games.

Troy ran for 2,010 yards in 1995, still the most yards ever by a sophomore in all of college football. Iowa State only won three games, but the fans didn’t seem to care because they got to watch Troy. You know that ribbon board that circles the stadium now, pretty neat right? Well back in Troy’s day some whippersnappers made their own homemade rotating graphic that tracked Troy’s yardage. It was called the “TD O Meter” and it was the coolest. Simpler times I tell you, simpler times.

Troy went on to finish fifth in the Heisman voting, making a trip to New York City. The winner was Eddie George. George was drafted by the Houston Oilers. They don’t exist anymore, but they had an oil derrick for a logo and that probably would be frowned upon now.  

In 1996, Troy came back and was even better. He ran for 100 or more yards in every game that year. Since 2012, Iowa State has had a running back clear 100 yards four times in 38 games. That’s bad, kids. One-hundred shouldn’t be a tough number to reach.

The No. 1 movie in the fall of 1996 was Space Jam, another classic with a very solid soundtrack. Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now. Troy ran for 378 yards against Missouri 19 years ago this month. It was the most spectacular individual performance in the history of Ames. The game was tight throughout and Iowa State needed every single yard. Troy ran for 175 yards in the 4th quarter alone. Iowa State hasn’t had a back go over 175 yards in a GAME since Ryan Kock in 2006. Troy did that in one quarter on 19 carries.

It’s a far cry from the current run game, which is dead last in the power five conferences with only 140 yards in two games. (Insert sad emoji face here, kids.)

Back to happier running times.

Troy finished the year with 2,185 yards in 11 games. There are still only five individuals that have run for more yards in a season: Barry Sanders, Melvin Gordon, Marcus Allen and Kevin Smith.

Yet, thanks to the east-coast media, Troy finished 2nd in the Heisman voting to Danny Wuerffel and the gimmicky Gators. Troy was the leading vote getter in five of the six regions, but on the east coach, Wuerffel crushed Troy and got a few more total votes. This still upsets me; there should be a gosh-darn Heisman Trophy on campus.

Now I’m irritated.

Troy still has yet to be elected into the College Football Hall-of-Fame. He has been eligible to be elected nine different times and has been passed over each time. This is an absolute travesty. Troy is the only back to run for over 2,000 yards two years in a row. Get your act together College Football Hall-of-Fame, that’s malarkey and hogwash and you know it.

Troy did some unthinkable things. He once carried the ball 53 times in one game and 15 times on one drive. He never came out of the game. He ran over people, around people and had a stiff-arm that could take down a 300 pounder. Remember that Braxton Miller spin move that got all the vines and snapchats a few weeks ago, it was nice, but Troy had a spin move that could make four men miss at once. He couldn’t be tackled in a phone booth. He ran for 200 or more yards nine times in 22 games. The last Cyclone back to clear 200 yards was Ennis Haywood in 2001. You had to live it to understand. 

I once sat down with old Iowa State offensive coordinator Steve Loney and asked him about Troy. He told me with Troy in the backfield, the Cyclones consciously left one defender unblocked on each play.

"Why?" I asked. "That was Troy’s guy, he could always make that guy miss," Loney said.

Those were some days. The days Iowa State could hand the ball off and something good would happen. Everybody knew what was coming and the other team still couldn’t stop it. Hard to believe right?

Troy Davis is no Tall Tale, he was real and he was glorious.  There may never be another like him, but he proved you can run the ball in Ames.

Kids, we are way past due for an Iowa State back to do something, anything. Someday the ground game will rise again. 

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