Youngstown State football has been known for their powerful running backs over the last two decades. Some won championships, while others had experience playing in the NFL. However, only five running backs make this list.
Top Five Youngstown State Running Backs
5. Adrian Brown (1996-1999)
Adrian Brown has been forgotten by some Youngstown State football fans, but let’s fill their memories back up again. Before he went to YSU to play running back, Brown played for the Canton McKinley Bulldogs. During his senior year, he was a first-team All-Northeast Ohio Selection, rushing for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He continued that success at YSU. Brown had 57 touchdowns, which is a school record. Fifty-five of those came on running plays. He ranks second in yards, second in 100-yard games along, with touchdowns. He is third in rushing attempts and fourth in all-purpose yardage. In his senior season, he earned All-Gateway Conference Honors, while having two of his best games as a Penguin. Against Southern Illinois, Brown rushed for 198 on 27 carries and three touchdowns. Then against Missouri State, he had 32 carries for 163 yards.
Brown was also an honorable-mention all-league pick during Youngstown State’s National Championship Season in 1997. Brown earned a degree in history at YSU and is now a supervisor in the Detention Facility at the Mahoning County Juvenile Center. He was inducted into the YSU Hall of Fame in 2010.
4. Tamron Smith (1990-1993)
You could try to take him down in the regular season, but when that postseason came around, there was no stopping Tamron Smith. The former Youngstown South running back is second in career touchdowns, scoring 52, only three off of Brown’s 55.
In the regular season, Smith rushed for 3,505 yards and 38 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he rushed for 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns, which had a big impact on the Penguins championship run in 1991 and 1993.
Smith was named AFCA and Kodak All-American, as well as YSU’s John Delserone Most Valuable Player. He was also the team captain, earning those rights after great performances. Tamron earned a degree in Social Work and helps out with Counseling in the Valley. Smith was inducted into the YSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Jody Webb (2013-2016)
Now, number three is challenging. Both Youngstown State running backs Jody Webb and Martin Ruiz were a dynamic duo, especially during that 2016 FCS championship run. However, Webb will take number three because of the starting role.
Webb originally was with the Toledo Rockets during Spring practice, but eventually transferred to Youngstown State, getting some reps at running back. His senior season is when he really broke out. He had 229 rush attempts, 1,342 yards, and six touchdowns. He had an impact on the receiving game as well with 36 receptions for 391 yards, during the National Championship run.
Webb owns the school record with 5,247 all-purpose yards. One of his most memorable games was against Wofford during the playoffs in which he had 331 all-purpose yards.
He got a workout with the San Diego Chargers after Youngstown State. He would not get an NFL contract however but is remembered for what he accomplished here at Youngstown State.
2. Jamaine Cook (2009-2012)
The Youngstown State team from the start of the last decade struggled on defense, but the offense had a different story. Enter running back Jamaine Cook. He was compared to the likes of Brown, Smith and Marcus Mason. In high school, Cook was Special-Mention All-Ohio Division 1 selection, Northeast Lakes All-District first team, All-Southwestern Conference and an honor roll student during his time at Midpark.
At Youngstown State, he ranked 10th in all-purpose yards, having 4,052 on the ground, which ranks sixth. He was selected to the second team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference during his sophomore season. During his junior season, Cook was the first tailback since Marcus Mason in 2006 to be named First Team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference. The biggest win during his 2012 season had to be against the Pitt Panthers, where the Penguins pulled off the upset win 31-17.
After his time as a Penguin, Cook would try out in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns during the 2013 preseason. He would, however, be released by the Browns, but still holds a big legacy at Youngstown State.
1. Marcus Mason (2005-2006)
Marcus Mason had trouble adjusting to the Illinois playbook. Because of that, the running back decided to transfer a division down, in hopes of finding that success. That’s when he decided to become a Penguin and the rest was history. In his two seasons at Youngstown State, Mason had 2,739 rushing yards on 478 carries and scored 31 touchdowns, averaging 130.4 yards a contest.
Mason would be first-team Football Championship Subdivision All-American honored by the Walter Camp Foundation, AFCA, The Sports Network, and the Associated Press. He was Gateway Football Conference offensive Player Of the Year and second in FCS averaging 153.9 rushing yards per game.
He and the Penguins made it to the 2006 FCS playoffs before losing to Appalachian State 49-24. Mason was undrafted but picked up by the Washington Redskins in 2007. Mason led all NFL rushers with 317 yards on 66 carries during the 2008 preseason. He was then on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, The New York Jets practice squad, before ending with the San Diego Chargers.
In 2016, Mason was inducted into the YSU football Hall of Fame which is inside Stambaugh Stadium.