Chisholm coming to his own at Akron

By: Chris Coon

Around this time last season, Zips redshirt freshman running back Jawon Chisholm strolled the sidelines at Infocision Stadium-Summa Field.

In Chisholm’s first season he witnessed the running back tandem of Alex Allen and Nate Burney rush for over 1,361 yards and eight touchdowns.

When both Allen and Burney graduated, Chisholm moved from the sidelines to the playing field, where he has recorded 753 yards rushing with four touchdowns through eight games this season.

“I redshirted last year, which I think was the greatest decision I probably ever made,” Chisholm said. “Staying out a year I think helped me, being behind Alex Allen and Nate Burney, just watching and learning and seeing what’s what.”

Chisholm also said that being around Allen last year was like being around a big brother who helped teach him the ins and outs of the running back position.

Chisholm, who was part of Head Coach Rob Ianello’s first recruiting class at Akron in 2010, arrived later on campus than other recruits after believing he was headed to prep school to improve his academics.

“I was getting recruited pretty heavily, but due to grade factors I couldn’t go to where I wanted,” Chisholm said. “I met with Coach Ianello later in my recruiting process and he stuck with me through thick and thin, and that’s why I’m at The University of Akron today.”

Coming out of high school, Chisholm did garner much attention from Bowl Championship Series schools after recording two 1,000-yard seasons his junior and senior year at Harrisburg High School in 2008 and 2009.

According to Scout.com, a recruiting website that tracks the skill set of high school football players, Chisholm was ranked 178th in the nation among senior running backs in 2009.

Chisholm had interest from the likes of Rutgers, Syracuse, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Connecticut, but all pulled their offers because of his academic troubles.

Chisholm said that the UA coaching staff showed faith in him along with being truthful with him from day one.

Standing at 6 feet tall and 210 pounds, Chisholm possesses not only strength and power, but also quickness. While at Harrisburg High School, Chisholm was named Mid-Penn Player and Offensive Player of the Year, while also a member of the Keystone 1,000-yard club.

But Chisholm traces his roots in football to a much earlier age.

“I was five and a smurf for the Harrisburg Broncos, but I still remember it was fun,” Chisholm said, referring to his youth football days.

Outside of football, Chisholm also competed in basketball and track while in high school.

“I ran track when I was little and I didn’t get beat in the state of Pennsylvania until I was 10 years old,” Chisholm said. “Basketball I played my senior year, but stayed out my 11th-grade year because I wanted to focus more on football.”

At the start of the 2011 season, Chisholm and sophomore Broderick Alexander were the top candidates to take over the starting running back position. The two competed in spring ball, but after rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, Chisholm started to distance himself from Alexander.

His strong performance in spring ball along with training camp over the summer earned him a starting nod for the Zips’ season opener against Ohio State at the Horseshoe, which would also be Chisholm’s first collegiate game.

“It was adrenaline,” Chisholm said of what it was like to play against Ohio State. “I’ve never seen 105,000 people in my life.”

In the game, Chisholm rushed for 26 yards on 13 carries, though the Zips lost to Ohio State 42-0. In Chisholm’s second game he improved, rushing for 63 yards on 12 carries against a very tough Temple team.

After a somewhat sluggish start in his first two games, Chisholm went on a tear in his next three, rushing for a total of 443 yards and two touchdowns. Chisholm’s best performance came in a Week 4 win (36-13) against Virginia Military Institute when he rushed for 188 yards on 27 carries with one touchdown.

“The yards I wasn’t so big on. I didn’t really care; I just wanted a win for our team,” Chisholm said. “My first college touchdown, though, was real special and I’ll never forget it.”

Off the field, Chisholm is a soft-spoken man who possesses great manners, demonstrating this by calling a photographer “mister.”

Not only does Chisholm possess a great attitude, but he has a great work ethic, and it has shown, as he is on pace to become the first 1,000-yard running back for the Zips since Dennis Kennedy in 2008.

After all Chisholm went through during his recruiting process, he still showed how positive he was by not once talking negatively about the schools that rejected him.

“I work hard every day, day in and day out,” Chisholm said. “Right now I’m in Akron and I love it.”

For a football season that has not had much to talk about, one positive is Chisholm, not only for his play on the field, but also for the positive and humble attitude he possess in general.

As for the Zips, they have him for three more years.