Duke Johnson had a good reason not to quit playing football

Former Miami running back Duke Johnson was regarded as one of the dark horse running backs of the 2015 NFL Draft. He watched Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon go in the first round. He then watched three more guys get taken before he finally heard his phone ring.

It was the Cleveland Browns and they were drafting him with the 77th overall pick in the third round. He was probably awestruck with emotion. He was probably with his mother.

Cleveland.com reported a story where Northeast Ohio Media Group sat down with Johnson and talked about his past that included his mother, Cassandra Mitchell, having to work three jobs just to keep food on their table. He also talked about how she was the reason that he continued to strive through adversity and didn’t quit playing football.

“She’s the reason I’m playing football,” Johnson, the Browns rookie running back, told Northeast Ohio Media Group last month while pointing to his tattoo. “It’s all for her.”

Johnson had just finished his freshman season with the Hurricanes. The season was one for the history books at Miami as he ran for a freshman record of 947 yards and ten touchdowns. He also recorded a school single-season record with 892 kickoff return yards and two touchdowns. Everyone knew that Johnson was a success on the field.

What people didn’t know was that Johnson was struggling with the demanding college life. On top of being a star athlete, Johnson struggled to keep up with homework, the practices, and the social expectations. He was also still distraught from the untimely passing of his father, Randy Johnson Sr, who had died from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) just four year earlier when Duke was just a freshman in high school.

“He supported me in everything that I do,” Johnson, who’s given name is Randy Jr., told espn.com when he was a senior at Miami’s Norland High School. “He used to come to all of my games. He would take me to all of the University of Miami games, also.”

He thought back to the times that his mother came home dead tired from working two or three jobs a night. He knew that she wouldn’t have wanted him to quit, nor would his father. He couldn’t give up.

So he didn’t.

Johnson went on to be one of the greatest Miami running backs in the history of the team. He racked up 3,519 rushing yards – a Miami record – in just three seasons.

That’s better than Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore, all players who went on to have very successful NFL careers.

The Browns took Johnson in the third round and you would think that would bother Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, the two running backs that split starting time in 2014. Instead of creating tension in the locker room, the two have welcomed the smaller Johnson in with open arms.

“I find it funny because Isaiah and Terrance West were in my position last year and they don’t have to do it, but they’re helping me out and have taken me under their wing,” said Johnson. “It says a lot because they just got in the league and they haven’t really made a name for themselves with what they’re trying to do, and yet, they’re still willing to bring a rookie in — a couple of rookies in — and teach them the right way.

Johnson is surely going to be an instrumental piece for the Browns in the coming seasons. He just knows one thing: He can never give up. His mom didn’t, so how can he?

Can’t get enough of Campus Sports? Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram to stay updated with the latest news and exclusive giveaways!

*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports

Rumors: 5-star recruit Harry Giles to Duke
Rumors: 5-star recruit Harry Giles to Duke