Commentary: The 15 best rushers in BYU history

Published: Thursday, July 11 2013 12:44 p.m. MDT

#13 - J.J. Di Luigi Next » 3 of 15 « Prev
Years at BYU: 2007-11

A lot was expected of Di Luigi following his outstanding high school career. He didn’t ever live up to those lofty expectations, but Di Luigi was the leading rusher in two different seasons and finished his BYU career with more than 1,700 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

""There was a lot of hype surrounding JJ coming out of Northern California when he arrived at BYU," said former BYU running back Alema Harrington on 1280 the Zone.

Alema's co-host Ben Criddle, said that although eh didn't live up to the hype. Di Luigi is an underrated rusher.

"Out of the top 20 rushers, there are only six guys with better yards per carry than him," Criddle said.

"I don't think J.J. Di Luigi gets enough love for what his were contributions on the field of play."
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It's a shame that you can't still find Staley's jersey at the stadium. It seems BYU has forgotten him. I'd rank him as the 4th best player at BYU ever (Detmer, Young, McMahon) and it seems the big wigs at BYU wish that Staley had never come to Provo. So sad.

San Diego, CA

Agree Luke Staley is BYU's top running back of all time. He was electrifying to watch. Sad that injuries prevented him from having an NFL career.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

If JJ is in the top 15 that's not a very deep list.

Lindon, UT

J.J. Di Luigi? Are you kidding me?

Lindon, UT


BYU usually takes a bit longer to retire numbers. Relax man.

Salt Lake City, UT

"Tippy-toe", "Mr. Fumbleruskie" J.J. DiLuigi does NOT belong on this list! I appreciate all his hard work and wish him well with his future, but every time he touched the ball, I held my breath waiting for him to fumble. He was a far better slot receiver than running back!

Cedar Hills, UT

Honestly the best two rushers I ever saw at the Y were Luke Stayley and Ronnie Jenkins. These two had BIG time ability that really separated them from all others. It was too bad that Luke had the injury bug some much and then Jenkins didn't get to finish all the way to his senior year. Luke had both power and speed and Jenkins was just a rare athlete - speed and athleticism.


LindonMan - I'm not saying retire his jersey - I'm saying sell his jersey as a "classic" - I'm saying get him to meet and greats - he lives in Draper - BYU has ZERO relationship with him. It's a complete shame.

Spanish Fork, UT

I'd put Kalin Hall ahead of JJ.

Staley was definitely one of the best players for BYU. Loved the run around the right to beat Utah -- the vaunted rushing defense.

I'd put MacDonald and Stinnet, Casey Tiamalou in as well and leave out the QBs in a running back discussion.

But McKenzie had one of the best games when BYU had to beat Utah at RES. Utah had a great set of DBs and the game plan was to just decoy Sarkesian and give it to McKenzie. Everyone knew he was running and no one could stop him as he ran the clock over and over.

Bountiful, UT


Luke Staley is my all time favorite Cougar. He was always a threat to go all the way everytime he touched the ball. He was sooo much fun to watch.

Bountiful, UT

another RB at BYU that I thought was really gifted but never got the ball much was Stacey Corley. He was big, strong, fast and explosive but played in a crowded backfield with Matt Bellini, Fred Whittingham Jr, and Peter and Tom Tuipulotu. He was also a really good kick returner and had a couple of kick returns go all the way and had an 81 yd TD run vs the Utes.

I always felt like he was way under-utilized.

Bountiful, UT

another all-time favorite of mine was Fui Vakapuna (before he got hurt). In 2006 he backed up Curtis Brown and played with such reckless abandon it took a gang of defenders to bring him down every time he carried the ball. He didn't run away from defenders or try to run out of bounds, he ran over would-be tacklers and then looked for the next defender to steam roll. He had the look of a wild man in his eyes. It was awesome to see!

Then he got the high ankle sprain and had surgery, he gained a bunch of weight over the summer and was never the same player after that.

Wayne Rout
El Paso, TX

I was glad to see John Ogdon listed. My memory, which may be fuzzy, was that he went at least one season where he never lost a yard. He didn't have many runs greater than five yards, but he had no negative plays. He was not the fastest guy, but he was one of the strongest. Along with his brother, Steve, they gave BYU the balance needs to go along with Vergal Carter.

Lindon, UT


How do you know so much about the BYU-Staley relationship? Let's here some hard facts and sources...

West Point , UT

I still think Ronnie Jenkins had the most talent of any of these backs. I also don't agree with the last 2 rankings. Unga was a better every down back than staley, even though he didn't have the home run ability staley did. I remember my dad talking about how great Peter "the phantom" Van Valkenburg was. JJ was kind of a head scratcher but I liked the rest of the list.

Cougar Claws
Lindon, UT

JJ belongs on this list as much as half of these guys. He was a legit triple threat and got first downs on like every other carry and he was an outstanding receiver. The coaches just refused to give him the ball. On limited carries he almost made the top 10 list of all-time rushers at BYU. Oh, and despite coaches refusing to give him the starting nod, he still didn't transfer . . . unlike some other players I know.

West Point , UT

Correction. I remember my dad talking about Elton "the phantom" Fortie...but also Pete Van Valkenburg.

Aberdeen, ID

Luke was good, but Unga was better. The reason for the breakout season in his junior year I believe is more because of Doman. They were awesome together running the option. Doman ran between the tackles better than Staley. The defense would get annoyed with Doman and lose focus and give Staley that one step he needed to get around the corner and then it was a foot race to the end zone. With Luke out they lost the last two games of the season and they were not even close to the same team. I believe if you took away Doman Luke's junior year would have been similar to the previous two years.

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