Campus CurrentsHe's History
By Allen Lessels '76
The final game of his last season had been over little more than an hour, and the Elliott Alumni Center gathering of football faithful was breaking up. Still Jerry Azumah '99, Saturday afternoon hero for four years, was the center of attention. Coach Bill Bowes had saved Azumah for last as he raved about his seniors and how a Jerry Azumah comes along once in a coach's lifetime—maybe.
T.K. Azumah, Jerry's dad, noted how his son at about age six had said thanks, but no thanks, to soccer, because he wanted to be a football player. The son grew up to be the best runningback in UNH history and the best Division 1-AA player in the land, but far more importantly, a proud father said, was that he is a nice man and always has time for everyone.
Nice guys run fast.
Jerry Azumah, smiling all the while, slipped on the "Jerry's Kids" No. 25 T-shirt that his fanatical band of backers presented to him and shook hands and slapped backs all around. He signed posters for men who played their football long before he was born and high-fived a much younger fan.
That was about it. Jerry Azumah left about the same way he came in.
"He's a low-key guy, always low-key," his father said.
Azumah was the least touted of three runningbacks in his high school class when he arrived in Durham from Worcester, but the coaching staff had a good idea it was on to something special. A few games into the season and Bowes—never one to throw praise around lightly—said Azumah could be UNH's best back ever. He was right. The numbers, the honors, prove it.
Funny thing is, Azumah is not the fastest runner UNH has ever had. Not the most powerful. Maybe does not even make the best cuts. But he does all those things very well. Put them together—with his decent size and a huge dose of determination—and he outdid them all.
He always credits his blockers and makes it sound so simple. It's about making plays, he says. He gets the ball and the first thing he thinks about is scoring. Watch a tape of him running the football against Hofstra. There, see that? "The safety was in the hole, and I showed him my headgear, and he froze for a split second." Head fake and Azumah was gone. Again.
More than 1,000 times Azumah carried the ball for UNH. Bowes thinks he fumbled it less than five times. "Probably three," Azumah said. Said Bowes: "That's unbelievable."
Simple stuff. "You can't fumble the ball," Azumah said.
Determination. No one at UNH had ever run for more than the 1,585 yards in a season that Azumah ran for last year. Few knew it, but he wanted to run for more than 2,000 this year. He finished with 2,195 yards.
Azumah, 21, is set to graduate this spring with a sociology major and a justice studies minor. Then he plans to take a shot at professional football.
He will go to scouts. Scouts will come to him. They will try to determine if he's big enough. Tough enough. They will note that he put up his numbers against lower-level competition and watch how well he stacks up against guys from the bigger schools.
"I want to have fun with it. I know I'll have to work harder than ever before and stay positive," he says.
The Jerry Azumah Show has closed its run at UNH. Now he'll try to take it to a bigger stage.
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