Ok, ok. We all know that for every rule there is an exception.
At 5-7 and 175 pounds (maybe…soaking wet) Johnnie Mack is that exception. Mack has exceeded every expectation running backs coach Bill Bedenbaugh ever had for the Florida native.
So how does he view his size?
"I love my size," said Mack. "It's hard for people to see me and I am able to use my quickness a lot. If you look at what's going on in college football right now, there are a lot of great running backs that are 5-6 or 5-7 -- just look at Darren Sproles or UCLA's running back. I mean we're taking over baby! I just try to use it to my advantage."
In high school in Lakeland, Florida, Mack helped lead his team to a 1999 5A state title as a senior and was named to the Gridiron Preseason All-American team. This is not to mention his three-time all-district selections and two-time all-state selections. Mack also rushed for 1,500 yards his senior season.
While at City College of San Francisco for his freshman and sophomore years, Mack left his mark by averaging 123 yards per game on the ground and 144.6 all purpose yards per game while leading his team to a 12-0 record. This success along with a lightening quick 4.35 40 time lead teams such as USC, West Virginia, and North Carolina to recruit Mack. In the end, he chose Texas Tech.
After transferring to Tech at midterm in 2001, Mack struggled to pick up the exceedingly difficult spread offense and was therefore redshirted for the 2002 season. This proved to be a difficult year for Mack.
Now, 6 games into the 2004 season Mack not only understands Mike Leach's spread offense, but has become an intricate part of it. He is the second leading scorer on the team with 42 points, just behind fellow tailback Taurean Henderson's 54.
Finding his place on the team has been important for Mack.
"My role on this team is simple. I make plays," Mack said. "Every time I get in (the coaches) expect and I expect to make plays. I just try to make to the most of every opportunity I get."
Despite his 59.7 yards per game in the all purpose category, Mack is not just a running back, though. His special teams play has continually made his stock rise in the eyes of coach Ruffin McNeil. This season Mack is averaging 17.4 yards per kickoff return and is always a threat to take it to the house.
Even players on the defense notice Mack's ability despite his size.
"He has a great heart and is a great athlete," said free-safety Dwayne Slay of Mack. "Size isn't everything and he can just flat out play."
Lately, a great flood of blue chip recruits have been flocking to Texas Tech for official visits after watching Mack and company thrash nationally-ranked defenses.
Who wouldn't want to play in an offense like Leach's; it's fun. The past two years the Tech quarterbacks have lead the nation in passing; this year is no exception with Senior Quarterback Sonny Cumbie on top nationally and sophomore wide receiver Jarrett Hicks leading the nation in yards per game.
"(This offense) is really fun because you never know what's going to happen," said Mack. "You are always involved in the play. At other schools if the running back isn't getting the ball, they are blocking. Here, we are always involved. If I'm not getting the ball, I'm running a route or blocking too. I love playing in this offense"
So, with a week off and Mack Brown's boys up next, how will Tech get ready for the Longhorns? Probably sitting on the coach and eating Twinkies, right?
"We don't view it as a week off," said Mack. "It's just another week to get us ready for Texas. They are big, fast, physical guys. When they come to the Jones we have to come and play hard. This way we have a chance to look at more film and hit it harder."
Tech will play on television for the fifth time this season as it hosts the University of Texas on October 23 at Jones SBC Stadium. The game will once again be broadcasted nationally on TBS.