A.J. Ouellette: The selfless yet competitive Ohio running back

 

Mason Morgan blocks for A.J. Ouellette during Ohio’s game against Kent State University on October 21, 2017. The Bobcats won 48-3. (Blake Nissen | Photo Editor)

 

A.J. Ouellette walked into the news conference room Saturday wearing a white Ohio tank top. Linebacker Chad Moore was already sitting at the table.

“You did OK today,” Ouellette said to Moore as he walked to the table.

“You did decent,” Moore replied.

Of course, both had done well. Moore notched his third interception of the season against Kent State, but Ouellette did something more than just decent.

During the second quarter against Kent State, Ouellette etched his name into Ohio’s history books. As Ouellette passed 28 rushing yards, he broke into the top 10 of Ohio’s all-time rushing list, surpassing former quarterback Dontrell Jackson.

And as Ouellette walked into the news conference room, he entered not knowing that he had accomplished the milestone. At the beginning of the season, Ouellette said the running backs looked at game and season records. But that’s all they knew about.

Still, Ouellette isn’t one to boast about achieving an individual accolade. Ouellette has split carries with Dorian Brown, who sat next to him at the table.

Ouellette and Brown haven’t complained about sharing playing time, though.

“We rotate every two series, so we just stay fresh,” Ouellette said.

He’s focused on doing well, brushing the thought of achieving individual success aside.

When running back David Burroughs, a walk-on, broke a 60-yard run in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats’ bench cheered him on. Ouellette, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall, couldn’t see from where he was in the back.

But he watched the replay on Ohio’s videoboard, and he’s expecting Burroughs to contribute as he earns opportunities to play.

“No matter who’s in there, if someone makes a great play, the team’s going to get excited,” Ouellette said.

While Ouellette and the Bobcats don’t boast about success, they aren’t quick to ignore it, either. When he came into the news conference room, coach Frank Solich didn’t know about Ouellette’s opportunity to put his name into Bobcat lore, either.

But when he heard, pride beamed across his face.

“To be able to get some individual records is great, too,” Solich said.

Solich emphasized Ouellette’s selflessness, particularly in terms of Ouellette sharing playing time with Brown. Ouellette has rushed for 100 yards or more in four of the past six games. So he could tell Solich that he wants to have most of the carries, that he wants more playing time.

But he doesn’t.

“I don’t know what he had, 90-something yards?” Solich said. “He didn’t come up and say ‘Hey, Coach, man I’d love to keep a string of 100-yard games going.’”

Ouellette had 91 yards, and the game before against Bowling Green he had 123. And in September he won the Mid-American Conference East Offensive Player of the Week for two straight weeks: the first against Kansas and the other against Eastern Michigan.

While Ouellette’s selfless nature is an admirable quality, that same personality still holds competitiveness.

After Brown rushed through the Kent State defense for a touchdown in the third quarter, Ouellette came in for his turn on the offense’s next series. The Bobcats called the same play for Ouellette, and they had the same result.

With the questions for the players finished, Ouellette, Moore, Brown and Nathan Rourke got up from the table to leave the room. As they exited, though, Ouellette had to remind Moore of something.

It was merely an echo of their joke before.

“You did good today, Chad,” Ouellette said.

“You did decent,” Moore said.

If his performance against Kent State was “decent,” then Ouellette has played decent his entire career.

 

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