Fozzy and Chris.
Friend of the site –and notable UT alumnus– rodofdisaster was kind enough to write up a piece on recent Browns RB signing, Fozzy Whittaker. There’s more to his story than I knew. Take it away, Rod.
Nearly two years ago, Fozzy Whittaker lay on the field in agony having sustained the third knee injury of his collegiate career. After tearing the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee, Whittaker’s college career was over. It was the same knee that he injured in 2008 as a redshirt freshman keeping him out of five games that year and three the following year.
It wasn’t that there wasn’t another running back to shoulder the load. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown could certainly take the carries. It was the character and the leadership that the senior provided that could not easily be replaced. The sixth-leading career rusher in the Texas 5A high school history saw his star-crossed career come to a close on the turf at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. He never rushed for 400 yards in any season. He never fulfilled the promise of the recruiting hype.
That did not stop future NFL players Kenny Vaccaro (New Orleans) and Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo) from honoring Whittaker by donning his number 2 in remaining contests that year. Whittaker was without a tear. His teammates were without a dry eye.
Fozzy Whittaker showed us enough in his senior year to demonstrate what kind of leader he can be. Down 27-3 against Oklahoma, he promptly took the kickoff and burst 100 yards to a touchdown with the same “refuse-to-quit” attitude that he has conquered every hurdle with. His 2011 highlights are littered with plays where he keeps going after contact refusing to allow the first defender to bring him down.
As I drove home last night and listened to the game on the radio, I was excited for Fozzy. Not because he dominated the Ravens. He simply was what he needed to be for the Browns. He picked up the blitz on the touchdown to Barnidge. He blocked and caught the ball. He and fellow Longhorn Chris Ogbonnaya did just what was needed for the Browns to succeed. Most importantly, this inspiring football player was back on the field, which was a victory just by itself.
As long as we’re looking back at those Texas teams, a word about Chris Ogbonnaya. He was frequently an afterthought as a running back at Austin yet he played in 47 games and seemed to always be on the field when “that play” happened. Unlike Whittaker, he didn’t come to Texas as a running back. He was recruited as a receiver. Like Whittaker, he excelled in the passing game as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield. Never flashy, Chris did what was needed. A hard three-yards on the dive play or a short pass reception turned into a 65-yard touchdown against Colorado defined him in Austin.
Fozzy and Chris will never be confused with Ricky Williams, Earl Campbell, Priest Holmes, or Jamaal Charles. The Browns’ running backs are now punchlines with opposing fans quizzically looking at each other as if to ask “who?” Perhaps most Browns fans don’t even know much about these two players except that they aren’t bell-cow NFL backs. The Browns don’t need them to be. If this past Sunday is any indication, they’re doing fine being what they are.
It’s difficult to substantially improve the talent on your team mid-season. What can be done, however, is to improve your locker room with high-character backups and Fozzy Whittaker is about as All-Pro of a leader as one can be.