OXFORD, Miss. – Akeem Judd never complained when he did not see the field for the Rebels during the 2014-15 season. He just waited his turn like any other incoming recruit and showed his potential in practices to running backs coach Derrick Nix.
As a JUCO transfer to Ole Miss in the 2014 signing class, Judd redshirted his first season and watched as four other running backs (Jaylen Walton, Jordan Wilkins, Mark Dodson, and I’Tavius Mathers) split carries in the backfield. But Judd never once contemplated transferring to another school, nor did he ever harbor any negative attitude towards his teammates or coaches.
On every game day, Judd sat on the sideline rooting as hard as he could for Ole Miss to play well on both sides of the football.
A season later in 2015, the hard work Judd put in during his redshirt season finally paid off. He saw the field, along with Walton and Wilkins, and helped the Rebels’ offense maintain stability in the backfield. Judd finished third on the team in rushing yards (421) and carries (77), in addition tallying three rushing touchdowns.
Entering 2016, his final season in Oxford, Judd was projected at the top of the depth chart as a primary running back, and heading into Ole Miss’ season-opener against Florida State, he and redshirt freshman Eric Swinney were supposed to split carries. (Jordan Wilkins was also in the mix for some major carries but was, unfortunately, ruled academically ineligible due to an athletics’ administrative error.)
Swinney unexpectedly went down against the Seminoles, suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament that would end his season. From there, Judd was forced to be the primary ball carrier and leader amongst the running backs.
Judd was up to the challenge and on his way to his best statistical season of his collegiate career. He finishes the 2016 season with 826 rushing yards and six TDs on 164 carries.
Judd grateful for his time at Ole Miss
After the Rebels (5-7, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) suffered defeat to Mississippi State, 55-20, in the 89th annual Egg Bowl, Judd was disappointed like everyone else that Ole Miss couldn’t get to six wins and become bowl eligible–but he has absolutely no regrets about his time in Oxford.
No, of course Judd didn’t want the Rebels’ season to end on a down note; he didn’t want it to end with a loss to arch-rival Mississippi State. He wanted to go out like a champion.
But here’s the thing–Judd is already a champion in his own right for persevering, for working hard through his redshirt season, and for battling for playing time–ultimately earning the starting running-back job.
In the end, there is no second-guessing for the Durham, North Carolina native who is grateful for his time at Ole Miss.
“You got to keep going, you got to think about the good times that you had. I can’t dwell on the bad times. I’ve got memories that will last forever in me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am glad I committed here.”
Judd can be proud knowing he made it and that his achievements came through hard work and dedication.
“The hard times, going through training camp, and all that type of stuff, man, you can’t take that away from me. So, I’m happy.”
The last time the Rebels had a 1,000-yard rusher on the ground was Dexter McCluster, who played for Ole Miss from 2006-09. McCluster finished his senior season with 1,169 yards. Since then, the Rebels haven’t been able to produce a 1,000-yard back despite recruiting a solid number of tailbacks each year.
Despite that, Judd thinks running backs can be successful at Ole Miss with Nix at the helm.
“When your name is called and the coaches want to run the ball a lot, you just got to do what you can do,” Judd said. “We have great linemen. We had some guys dinged up. Some of the schemes we went against were a little difficult. But, of course, we can run the ball. We can do it.”
Judd’s favorite memory
When asked what he will take with him from his time at Ole Miss, Judd was contemplative.
“I will remember it all. I am the type of guy that likes to sit back and think. And I observe a lot, so I keep a lot of memories and I will be to tell a lot of stories. All of the experiences, I’ve got so many. But one of my best memories here was when we beat Alabama in 2014 when I redshirted. That was probably one of my greatest memories here.”
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)