Number 5: James Johnson
Johnson’s numbers aren’t quite as prolific as some of the other players on this list, or some of the players that got left off. But one of the reasons for it was simply because he only played two seasons. He had big shoes to fill and a heavy burden to carry. He was a JUCO transfer and had to fill in for McGee after the star running back passed away.
In 1997, he ran for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns and helped lead Mississippi State to a surprising 7-4 record. There wasn’t much expected of the Bulldogs after the passing of McGee. He gave the Bulldogs some unexpected production that a lot of people weren’t counting on before the start of the 1997 season.
He followed it up in 1998 with one of the best seasons ever for a Bulldog running back in 1998. He ran for 1,383 yards in 1998, which is the second most in a single season for any Bulldog running back. He was the work horse that led the Bulldogs to the 1998 SEC Championship Game. He averaged just over 115 yards per game, and that is also good for second all time among Mississippi State Running Backs. He totaled 2,452 yards in those two seasons which led Johnson to get drafted in the second round of the NFL draft and was the 39th overall selection by the Miami Dolphins.
Had Johnson come straight to Starkville, chances are he might be a few notches higher on this list. What he was able to accomplish in just two years is impressive.