Butler legends among NJCAA Football HOF inductees

The NJCAA Football Coaches Association has announced four inductees – two former players and two former coaches – into its hall of fame. Former Butler (Kan.) running back Rudi Johnson and coach Troy Morrell were joined by former Hinds (Miss.) defensive end Gary Walker and former Nassau (N.Y.) coach John Anselmo in the class.

Rudi Johnson
Player – Butler (KS)

Spearheading Butler's run to back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999, Johnson established himself as one of the nation's top offensive weapons. The former Grizzlies running back would go on to have a remarkable career at Auburn and with the Cincinnati Bengals to cement his legacy that began in El Dorado, Kansas.

As a freshman in 1998, Johnson rushed for 1,697 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging over six yards per carry. In Butler's 22-18 win over Ricks (Idaho) in the Real Dairy Bowl, the Petersburg, Virginia, native carried the ball 35 times for 188 yards – earning MVP honors for the game.

Taking his production to another level in 1999, Johnson amassed a school-record 2,310 yards rushing along with 31 touchdowns. Facing top-ranked Dixie (Utah) in the NJCAA Championship Game, the sophomore ran for 370 yards and scored all seven of the Grizzlies' touchdowns in a 49-35 victory. Johnson was once again named MVP of the bowl game while also earning first team All-America accolades, the NJCAA Player of the Year Award and a scholarship to Auburn.

In one season on the plains, Johnson solidified his place in the lore of Tigers football. The 2000 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Offensive Player of the Year totaled 1,567 yards rushing on the season which still ranks as third-most in Auburn history behind current Los Angeles Rams running back Tre Mason and the legendary Bo Jackson.

Taken in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, Johnson would go on to spend seven seasons in the league. He was selected for the Pro Bowl in 2004 after setting a Bengals franchise single-season record with 1,454 rushing yards. Johnson would spend one year with the Detroit Lions before retiring following the 2008 season. After eight years in the NFL, Johnson accrued 5,979 yards rushing with 51 career touchdowns.

Johnson's excellence extended beyond the gridiron and into the Cincinnati community where his involvement helped better the lives of many. He established the Rudi Johnson Foundation in 2005 which provides assistance to families and children to promote self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Among the organization's achievements are the formation of the first football team at Clark Montessouri High School and numerous activities supporting the National Bone Marrow Registry.

Troy Morrell
Coach – Butler (KS)

Compiling the highest win percentage in the history of NJCAA football, Morrell's 15 seasons with Butler mark one of the most successful tenures in two-year college athletics. After spending three years as the Grizzlies' offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, Morrell was promoted to the role of head coach of his alma mater in 2000. Over the next decade and a half, the historic program would be elevated to new heights under his direction.

Coming off back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999, expectations were high for Morrell as he took over the head coaching job. He answered the bell in his debut season, posting a 10-2 record with the No. 6 ranking in the final poll following a victory in the Canon Empire Bowl. Just one year later, Morrell led the Grizzlies to their first of eight consecutive Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) titles and an appearance in the NJCAA Championship Game.

Despite suffering a 31-19 loss to Georgia Military in that 2001 title game, the Grizzlies returned in 2003 where they'd defeat Dixie State (Utah), 14-10 – earning Morrell his first of three NJCAA championships. Butler would go on to win back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008 under his watch. His teams also made appearances in the 2004, 2010 and 2012 NJCAA Championship games. Morrell was named NJCAA Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2007 – garnering KJCCC Coach of the Year honors in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

In 15 years at Butler, Morrell produced an average of 15 NCAA Division I signees per season. Under his tutelage, 68 players earned NJCAA All-America honors including three players – Austin Panter, Markus White and Cornelius Carradine – who were named NJCAA Defensive Player of the Year. Among his 19 former players to reach the NFL are Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and San Diego Chargers quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Fellow NJCAA Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee Rudi Johnson played under Morrell during his service as Butler offensive coordinator.

Retiring after the 2014 season, Morrell ended his coaching career with a record of 154-22. His .875 winning percentage is the highest all-time in NJCAA football, while his 154 victories rank 15th.

A former offensive lineman for the Grizzlies from 1990-91, Morrell received All-KJCCC recognition and an NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Award his sophomore year. After earning his associate's degree from Butler, he went on to finish his collegiate career at Fort Hays State.

Gary Walker
Player – Hinds (MS)

Few men in the trenches of NJCAA football experienced the success of Walker. Anchoring the Hinds defensive front during the 1991 and 1992 seasons, Walker would go on to excel at Auburn and in his 11-year NFL career.

Playing an integral role on the Eagles defensive line in both of his seasons in Raymond, Mississippi, Walker's production steadily increased in his two-year collegiate playing career. He garnered NJCAA Second Team All-America accolades as a sophomore in 1992 before signing with Auburn.

Walker would show dramatic improvement under Tigers head coach Terry Bowden, accumulating 148 tackles and 15 sacks in two seasons on the plains. In his first season in 1993, Walker's presence on the defensive front played a pivotal role in Auburn's perfect 11-0 season. The Royston, Georgia, native took his game to another level during his senior year in 1994, claiming All-SEC honors as the Tigers enjoyed a 9-1-1 campaign.

Drafted in 1995 by the Houston Oilers, Walker went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2001 and returned to the game in 2002 with the Houston Texans during their expansion season. Retiring in 2005, Walker finished his pro football career with 315 tackles, 46.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles.

The Walker legacy at Auburn continues as his son – Gary Walker, Jr. – is currently a redshirt freshman on the Tigers defensive line.


John Anselmo
Coach – Nassau (NY)

Few coaches in the history of NJCAA football have gone on to make as big a name for themselves as Anselmo. The combination of his success in the NJCAA, NCAA and NFL put the former Nassau coach in rare company.

Anselmo accumulated a record of 152-37 in two stints with the Lions – one from 1987-94 and an encore stretch from 1999-2009. His .804 win percentage ranks eighth in the history of NJCAA football, while his 152 wins are 17th most all-time. During his tenure at Nassau, Anselmo's teams made 12 bowl appearances and sent over 150 players on to NCAA DI programs.

In 1995, Anselmo made the jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to serve as secondary coach at Georgia Tech. After four seasons with the Yellow Jackets, he returned to Nassau for his second stint before landing another secondary coach job at Syracuse in 2000. Following the 2012 season, Anselmo followed Orange head coach Doug Marrone to the NFL where he'd spend three years as a special teams coach with the Buffalo Bills.

Earning his bachelor's degree from Cortland State, Anselmo was a record-setting quarterback and team captain with the Red Dragons. He also served as team captain for the baseball team his senior year – leading the University of New York Athletic Conference in hitting – and lettered in wrestling for two years.

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