One Snell of a Career

UK running back Snell Jr. now ranks among Southeastern Conference elite

Ok, quick question. How good is Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr.?

Before this season, a rabid college football fan might have answered “Pretty good.” Others might have said “OK” or something along those lines. Still others might have responded “Who’s Benny Snell Jr.?”

The truth is the 5-foot-11, 223-pound blaster from Westerville, Ohio, has, without great fanfare by today’s hype-crazed standards, just concluded one of the best rushing careers in Southeastern Conference history. Yet until this season, when he gained notoriety as much for his talk as his walk, Snell Jr. seemed barely a blip on the college football radar.

While much attention has been focused on offensive standouts in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Athens, Georgia, over the last few years, Snell Jr. amassed three straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards rushing and found the end zone at a rate that ranks him among SEC rushing royalty.

The Football team defeats Florida 27-16 on Saturday, September 9, 2018.
Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics

With 3,873 yards on 737 carries, Snell Jr. now ranks 12th on the SEC all-time leading rushers list, right behind Emmitt Smith and just ahead of Sonny Collins, the man who saw many of his UK records fall to Benny and his jets. But it is his 48 career rushing TDs that really lifted him into the statistical stratosphere — third on the all-time list behind Tim Tebow (57) and Herschel Walker (49).

Those four dozen counters were also UK records for career rushing TDs and total TDs and left him second to only Walker in SEC history for rushing TDs before a senior season. His rushing total also ranks fifth-most in league history before a senior season.

Snell Jr. — who has declared for the NFL Draft — broke Collins’ record of 3,835 career rushing yards set from 1972-75 and posted 19 games of 100-plus yards rushing, breaking another Collins record. He had seven such games last season.

Benny Snell
Kentucky Football beats Central Michigan 35-20.
Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics

He rushed for 1,449 yards as a senior, good for second in the SEC, was third in the league as a sophomore with 1,333 yards, and eighth as a freshman with 1,091 yards. He was also a workhorse, carrying the ball 186 times his first year, 262 times his second year and 282 times this season, averaging 5.3 yards on all of them.

He posted 10 rushing TDs in 2016, 19 in 2017, the fifth-highest total in the NCAA Bowl Championship Series division that year, and 16 this season.

He averaged 102.5 yards per game as a junior and 111.5 yards per game his senior season in which he powered the Wildcats to a 10-3 record, only their third double-digit win total in 103 seasons of competitive football action and their first season with at least nine wins since 1977.

Snell Jr. also carried the ‘Cats to a 27-24 win over vaunted Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, only the fourth New Year’s Day bowl trip in school history and the first since Tim Couch and company lost to the same Nittany LIons program in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 1999. Snell led the way of course, earning game MVP honors with 144 yards — the second-most in UK bowl history — and 2 touchdowns.

Snell Jr., who earned Associated Press All-SEC First Team honors in 2017-18 and seems a shoo-in to receive them again this year, was most pleased that he and his teammates made what they believe is a statement about things to come in Lexington, where the Wildcats are 24-15 in the last three seasons under coach Mark Stoops and have gone to three straight bowls.

I feel like there’s no other team, no other legacy that is like this, what we left,” Snell Jr. said.

For UK football, that the most important blip on the screen of all. H&A

 

All of these beautiful photos are courtesy UK Athletics and were taken by Britney Howard. 

 

Jimmy Creed

Jimmy Creed

Jimmy Creed is the former award-winning sports editor of The Anniston (Alabama) Star and editor of Saints Digest, the official team publication of the New Orleans Saints. He is a two-time winner of the Alabama Sports Writers Association Herby Kirby Award for the best sports story in the state of Alabama and has received numerous writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the National Motorsports Press Association. and the Alabama Press Association. He is also the author of NASCAR legend Donnie Allison's biography "Donnie Allison: As I Recall."
Jimmy Creed

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