Aug. 13, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
One of the many events at the University of Wyoming's footballmedia day last Friday was the annual team picture.
Running back Derek Armah had his spot in the front row with the rest of hisUW senior teammates.
But last year, Armah was absent for the team picture and fall camp. And,there was a time when he was uncertain he would be around this year.
Not only is Armah around, he will be counted on to be a significantcontributor on and off the field.
"A lot of guys ask me if I remember certain things about this time of year,and I tell them 'I wasn't here last year, remember?' Then we just laugh,"Armah said. "I feel a lot better being here."
What Armah is referring to is a run in with the law where he was arrestedJuly 13, 2002, and charged with felony assault for allegedly striking apeace officer while trying to break up a bar fight in Laramie.
On Aug. 23, Armah plead to three misdemeanor charges of battery, fighting inpublic and interference with a peace officer. He missed all of UW's fallcamp and was suspended for the Cowboys' season-opener against Tennessee.
Armah returned for UW's second game of the season, and rushed for ateam-best 596 yards and six rushing touchdowns.
But Armah wasn't sure if he would get back to football, let alone normal,everyday life after his ordeal. And, he wasn't sure if he would be a part ofthe UW team this season, either.
"It was questionable and I had doubts," said Armah during UW's footballmedia day at War Memorial Stadium. "The way things were going, I didn'tthink I would be back. The Lord stayed with me, along with my mom, myteammates and a lot of other people. So here I am."
Here he is, and with a new lease on his football life.
First-year head coach Joe Glenn has said on many occasions since he took thejob back in December that he wanted the offense to run the ball more thisseason. Glenn also said that he felt Armah was capable of rushing for 1,000yards this season.
"Derek Armah is a real key to our running game," Glenn said. "I don't thinkwe need to lead the league in rushing, but if we can average close to fiveyards a carry, we're going to run the ball a lot more and take a little heatoff our defense."
No UW running back has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season since MarquesBrigham in 1998 (1,114).
Since last season, Armah seems to be a different player. While he is aboutthe same size as last season (207 pounds), he appears to be a littlequicker. Armah isn't a back that can break a lot of long runs, but he issolid between the tackles, and that is what he will be asked to do the mostthis season.
Work in the weight room and at practice has helped Armah, but so has coacheslike Glenn having that much faith in him.
"It boosted my confidence up," Armah said. "We've talked about running theball before. But when the coach tells you that you can rush for 1,000 yards,wow! That's put a little more pepper in my step, and I think that's becauseI have more confidence."
Armah hasn't rushed for 1,000 yards in a season since he was a senior inhigh school in Lawnside, N.J., when he rushed for more than 1,300 yards as aquarterback.
But this year?
"I think I have 1,200 in me," Armah said.
But no matter how many carries Armah gets, he will be counted on to carrythrough one very important task.
"Derek is a leader in my group and on this team," UW running backs coachHarvey Patton Jr. said. "Derek really brings a work ethic. Derek has a lotof ability and also works hard. He brings leadership to the group as ateammate and mentor."
Added Bradshaw, who was UW's second-leading rusher last season with 302yards: "He's taken it upon his shoulders to not only make himself better,but to help make the whole group better. In time, that's made me better togo out and trying to work."
Armah has been bothered by a leg injury early in fall camp this season, butexpects to be ready to go when the Cowboys open the season Aug. 30 at homeagainst Montana State.
Not only will that be the debut of the Glenn era at UW, but also the debutof a new and revived Armah.
"I think that Derek is capable of being the best running back he canbe -whether it's 1,000 yards or 100 yards - it really doesn't mater," Pattonsaid. "What both myself and Derek expect is for him to be the best he canbe. If that takes him to a 1,000-yard rusher, we'll take it."