Ranking the best season by a running back in BYU history (25 items)

By , Deseret News

July 31, 2014

College football is just around the corner, and the BYU Cougars should have an excellent running game once again. After a solid freshman campaign, Jamaal Williams took a huge step forward and was able to put up one of the best statistical seasons by a running back that the Cougars have ever had. With more expected from the junior phenom in 2014, it is the perfect time to recognize the best seasons by a back before he takes another shot at them. When doing these rankings, what each player did on the field in the running and passing game as well as what he meant to the offense in general was factored in.

Here is a look at the 25 best seasons by a running back ever at BYU

All stats and award information from BYUCougars.com.

1 of 25. 25. Lakei Heimuli, 1984

In his first of three special seasons in the BYU backfield, Heimuli averaged 5 yards a carry on his way to a team-leading 796 yards and nine scores on the ground. He was also a major weapon through the air with 31 receptions for 242 yards and another touchdown as the Cougars ran the table to earn their only national championship. His best game of the season came in a 48-0 win over New Mexico when he rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

2 of 25. 24. Jamal Willis, 1992

Even though the Cougars struggled to keep a quarterback healthy in ’92, they still had a very successful season behind a very effective rushing attack. Willis became the first BYU running back to go over 1,000 yards rushing since Pete Van Valkenburg did it in 1972. He finished with 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns on 204 carries to go along with 16 catches for 156 yards. His best game of the year came in a 35-0 win over New Mexico when he carried the ball 16 times for 149 yards and three touchdowns.

3 of 25. 23. Harvey Unga, 2009

It wasn't the most productive season for Unga, but it was still good enough to land on this list. In his third season as the starting running back for BYU, he went over the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the third consecutive season with 1,087 yards on 208 carries and 11 touchdowns. He also added 16 receptions for 121 yards and another score in his final season on the field for the Cougars. His best game of the season came in a win over UNLV when he rushed for 149 yards and three scores.

4 of 25. 22. Marcus Whalen, 2002

Whalen only started one full season at BYU, and he put up some impressive numbers in the process. He carried the ball 181 times for a team-leading 918 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 27 receptions for 203 yards for the 5-7 Cougars. His best game of the season came in a 35-32 win over Hawaii when he rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns to go along with three catches for 32 yards.

5 of 25. 21. Brian McKenzie, 1997

With the loss of Ronney Jenkins, McKenzie was the only real threat that BYU had on the ground in ’97, and he produced in a big way. McKenzie tallied 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 15 grabs for 123 yards for the 6-5 Cougars. His best game of the season came in a 49-39 win over Tulsa when he carried the ball 23 times for 187 yards and two touchdowns.

1. Hochmut
West Jordan, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

I was there! Luuuuuuuuuuuuke!

2. 59fitz
davis, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

Not sure why the Great Eldon Fortie is not on this list somewhere!

3. BleedCougarBlue
Enid, OK,
Aug. 1, 2014

Casey Tiumalu: One of THE coolest runs I've EVER seen by any player, high school, college or pro, was a play in which Casey had the ball with a defensive player (UCLA?) targeting Tiumalu near the line of scrimmage and instead of trying to jink or cut, Casey simply wrapped up the ball with both arms, lowered his head and planted his helmet firmly INTO the very center of the defender's chest and literally ran right OVER the guy and just kept on running. That poor dude never had a chance.

Go Cougars!

Orem, UT,
Aug. 1, 2014

I agree with 59Fitz...as a member of BYU's freshman football team way back in 1962, we scrimmaged against the Varsity several times a week. I have never encountered or seen, a more elusive tailback. He had a tremendous year and easily should be on your list.

5. Thunderfish
Aug. 1, 2014


Eldon Fortie was a quarterback and not a running back. He ran a lot because of the single wing offense that BYU ran at the time.

I agree, Luke was the best!