- After scoring 32 rushing touchdowns in 2017, more than all but two running backs in college football history, what will Florida Atlantic's Devin Singletary do for an encore?
In the last two seasons, a Florida Atlantic running back has broken the program’s single-season rushing touchdown record. In 2016, Gregory Howell Jr. scored 13 times. In 2017, Devin Singletary scored 32 times. Not only did he break multiple school records, including the overall touchdown mark, but Singletary’s 2017 season was one of the most prolific in college history. Consider the following:
-He scored 198 points, 30 more than the next closest player.
-He scored more times than all but 16 teams.
-Only two players in history had more rushing touchdowns in a season: Barry Sanders (37) and Montee Ball (33).
And all this came after two mediocre games to start the year—26 yards against Navy, and 68 yards against Wisconsin. For Singletary, a 5’9”, 200-pound junior who grew up 10 minutes from campus in Deerfield Beach, his outburst was expected, and there’s a simple explanation. “We just started running the ball more,” he says.
Few players were as responsible for a team’s success as Singletary. He was tied for the national lead in carries, with 301, and his consistent production, especially in light of a mediocre pass game, is a big reason that the Owls underwent a major turnaround in the first year under Lane Kiffin.
The Owls went 11–3, winning 10 in a row to end the year, and the team enters the season with the second-longest active win streak. This comes after three straight 3–9 campaigns.
“Before the season, I thought we could be really good,” says Kiffin. “But after going 1–3, losing at Buffalo, I didn’t know at that point we wouldn’t lose again. And it’s the way they did it. It’s not just making a field goal at the last minute.”
What makes Singletary’s production even more staggering is that teams knew it was coming. Quarterback Jeff Driskel threw for just 2,247 yards. Singletary, in his last 12 games, averaged 23 carries a game. By the end, Kiffin admits, Singletary’s numbers trailed off slightly. “People started to figure out that you gotta force the throw,” he says. Not that it fazed Singletary. “They couldn’t really adjust,” he says. “If they tried, I didn’t notice.”
Singletary is confident, bordering on cocky. He describes his game as being “a savage,” and admitted that the games felt like a repeat of high school. He’ll need to be a savage in order to live up to FAU’s lofty goals. SI's preseason No. 25 team, FAU starts the year at Oklahoma, a nationally televised game. The Owls are the favorites to repeat as C-USA champs, but they still need to find a quarterback. The contenders are De’Andre Johnson, of Last Chance U fame, who is battling back from a blood clot in his throwing arm, and former Oklahoma transfer Chris Robison. With three new interior offensive linemen and new receivers, the boxes will be stacked against the run.
But they’ll still be heavily reliant on Singletary, as well as a better-than-expected defense that returns 10 starters and is led by senior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who finished third in the nation last year in tackles with 147. Their schedule, outside the Sooners game, is fairly easy.
The school set up a #Motor4Hei5man campaign (his nickname, Motor, was handed down by his father, and the 5 is his jersey number), and also put up a billboard on I-95 South that says “Heisman in Paradise.” “It’s pretty cool,” Singletary admits.
A Heisman bid is probably a longshot, considering his school, but Kiffin, who coached two Heisman running backs in Reggie Bush at USC and Derrick Henry at Alabama, puts Singletary up there. “He has really unique running skills and vision,” says Kiffin. “He runs like a video game. It’s like press R2, X, triangle. You’re not supposed to do that.”
If last season didn’t bring him Heisman attention, perhaps a repeat, along with an increased national profile, will at least get him to New York. If not, though, Singletary will continue breaking records in Boca Raton.
“Just going to keep working hard, and be me,” he says. “That’s what got me here.”