Purdue's Raheem Mostert Poster Child For Perseverance


Raheem Mostert has waited — and waited and waited — for a day like Sunday, where he was the star of the show on one of football's biggest stages. Finally, after a decade of working hard and biding his time, it happened.

Mostert made NFL history on Sunday, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns for the San Francisco 49ers in their 37-20 rout of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif. That's huge.

How huge? Well, it's never been done before. Ever. 

Huge. And completely unexpected for a former Purdue player who has spent the past decade trying to make a name for himself. He was at Purdue for four years and had some memorable kickoff returns, but he was never really a big piece in Purdue's backfield. 

Mostert's career at Purdue was modest at best using any standard on the football field. (It was better in track.) During his first three years in West Lafayette ( 2011-13), he was primarily a receiver and he carried the ball only 43 times and was used mostly as a kickoff returner, where he returned two kicks for scores.

He had a breakthrough season as a senior in 2014, getting 93 carries for 529 yards while still returning kicks, but it was a brutal 3-9 season for the Boilermakers, so not many people really noticed what he did. It was the second season of the Darrell Hazell era, and it wasn't good. Purdue only won one Big Ten game that season.

 "I didn't even get it in high school like that,'' Mostert said Sunday when asked when the last time was that he had rushed for more than 200 yards. it was never, of course. "I was a receiver coming out (of high school in Florida). And I made that transition to running back my junior year of college. After that, honestly, maybe against Illinois 2014, had 115 on like six carries, something like that, two touchdowns. That was probably like my biggest game."

Mostert's memory isn't very good, but it was a long time ago. It was actually against Minnesota is 2015 that he had 115 yards on just five carries, including a run of 69 yards.

So when people say his career at Purdue wasn't memorable, now you get it. Even HE doesn't remember much.

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After Purdue it was no different in the NFL. He went undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft and then he started the bounce, spending time with six different NFL teams before finally sticking with the 49ers. He has been cut seven times. Mostert knows that because he has all those cut dates written down, and he looks at the list before every game for motivation.

"I never gave up on my dream,'' Mostert said. "The journey's been crazy, and not everybody can deal with that kind of stress, and the pain and agony I've been through.''

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The unlikely hero got San Francisco back to the Super Bowl with his record-setting performance. Mostert even admitted postgame that he didn't see this coming, even though this 2019 season has been a bit of a breakout moment for him, too.

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He came down with the flu earlier this week, but that wasn't going to stop him when  fellow back Tevin Coleman was carted off the field with shoulder injury on Sunday. The 49ers just started handing the ball off to Mostert, and he responded over and over. 

It worked so well that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t call a single pass in the third quarter.  The Packers defense had no answer for him.

"That's the first rule of football: Stop the run. And we weren't able to do that," Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams said. "Obviously, they're a very good team, you've got to give them credit, first and foremost. We knew that coming in. We felt that we could come in here and win this game, but we knew that we had to play a lot better, and we didn't do that."

Mostert bounced around from Philadelphia to Miami, Baltimore, Cleveland, the New York Jets and Chicago before finding a place on the 49ers' special teams two years ago. 

Because of injuries to Coleman, a former Indiana star, and Matt Breida, Mostert finally got a chance this season. He had with 137 carries for 772 yards (5.6 yards per attempt) and eight touchdowns.

He was responsible for six of San Francisco's 10 longest plays Sunday, including a 36-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Mostert also was a big reason 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempted only eight passes, including none from 2:10 left in the second quarter until around the 8-minute mark in the fourth.

"The guy was just gashing us," said Williams, who was teammates with Mostert in Cleveland in 2015. "He's fast. He's track-and-field fast. This kid made some money tonight, I can tell you that."

It's about time. People know who Raheem Mostert is now.

"He's a great back – on top of that and on top of our mistakes that we did throughout the game, whether it was being in our gap, being in the right position," linebacker Blake Martinez said. "We left a lot of open holes that allowed him to run a full head of steam."

And now, Raheem Mostert, that anonymous guy from Purdue, is going to the Super Bowl.

His 220 yards was a team playoff record and ranks second all-time to Eric Dickerson's 248 rushing yards in an NFL playoff game.

"Eric Dickerson is the ultimate running back," Mostert said after the game. "He's a guy I look up to, even all the other running backs, even with Frank Gore, to even be mentioned with somebody like Eric Dickerson, that's unbelievable."

Related: Raheem Mostert highlights

Purdue's Kelly scores TD for Titans: https://www.si.com/nfl/titans/gameday/tennessee-titans-dennis-kelly-playoff-td

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