He was mentioned 5 minutes into Miami’s 2014 National Signing Day press conference when former head coach Al Golden described what position he would play on the field.
“We will see where he goes with his body,” Golden said. “He is about 218 pounds now at 6’4”, but certainly has the ability to be a guy we can move around.”
Fast forward nearly 3 years, and redshirt sophomore David Njoku has turned from a scrawny developing teenager into a 6’4” 245 pound early round draft pick.
He had 38 receptions for nearly 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2016, numbers that rival John Mackey award winner Jake Butt, who had three less touchdowns and over 100 less yards.
The scouts wrote him off in high school as a 3 star prospect, and committees failed to nominate him for awards this season, but Njoku has had a year to remember.
With 2 multiple touchdown games this season and a 134 yard performance in the final matchup of the season, Njoku finished second on the team in touchdowns.
As the year wore along Njoku’s impact grew larger, and his draft stock increased along with his performances. The redshirt sophomore may be playing his final game as a hurricane on December 28th in Orlando, but the image of his potential will remain in fans mind’s for years to come, regardless of his draft decision.
He was the project that was successful, the untapped potential that was discovered; but above all else, he was the diamond in the rough of Al Golden’s risks throughout his regime.
Year after year Golden and his staff took flyers on potential, whether it was three star prospects him and his staff seeked out, or 4 star prospects in need of dramatic improvement, Miami rolled the dice in several key spots.
But by the time 2015 rolled around, Golden’s gambles had fallen flat. After a 58-0 defeat at the hand of Clemson in Miami, Golden departed from the program leaving little depth behind him. Positions such as offensive line and cornerbacks suffered greatly towards the end of his regime, and prospects he once viewed with potential never panned out on the field.
But then there was David Njoku, a target who grew from 6’4” 218 as a true freshman, to 6’4” 245 as a redshirt sophomore. He seemed to defy the odds and reach his potential despite the staff’s failure to develop many of their other athletes.
Njoku hauled in 21 passes for 362 yards as a redshirt freshman, and led the team with a 17 yard-per-catch average. After a tallying 186 yards on 10 catches in Miami’s last four regular season games, Njoku jumped onto the radar for many Miami fans in 2015.
From that point forward Njoku became a focal point for the offense, and went from winning the high jump national championship in high school, to leaping over defenders for touchdowns in the NCAA.
“I felt like I didn’t want to be denied,” Njoku said of the play. “So I found a way where not many can stop me.”
Njoku could not be stopped on that day, and was not be stopped for the better part of his senior season.
His performances this year will be remembered by hurdles and long touchdowns; but if the Russell Athletic Bowl is indeed Njoku’s last game as a ‘Cane, he will be remembered as the player who persevered through the failures of the Golden regime to become the force Miami needed.