Best SEC fullbacks of the last decade
We’ve spent the last two weeks pouring over the running back position, both from a historical and current perspective.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the best SEC fullbacks in recent years with all that attention on the ball-carriers. Here are some of the top guys in the SEC at the position in the last decade, in alphabetical order.
John Conner, Kentucky (2005-09): What a name for a 5-foot-11, 245-pound fullback. Alternately referenced as “The Terminator,” Conner played in four bowl games at UK before earning All-American honors as a senior. A fifth-round draft pick, Conner has bounced around the NFL, mostly in the AFC East, and currently plays for the Buffalo Bills (and the coach who drafted him — Rex Ryan).
Patrick DiMarco, South Carolina (2007-10): A utility player with the Gamecocks, DiMarco contributed on special teams, as a lead blocker, as a ball-carrier and as a tight end. He became a good pass-catcher later in his college career and earned team captain honors as well. Undrafted out of college, DiMarco hovered around the NFL for a while before joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2013.
Jalston Fowler, Alabama (2010-14): A versatile, new-breed fullback, Fowler’s best football may be yet to come. He rarely shared the ball in the Crimson Tide backfield, competing for touches with players like T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry his final two seasons. But Fowler, a good athlete who can run, catch and block, got drafted in the fourth round earlier this month by the Tennessee Titans.
Jacob Hester, LSU (2004-07): OK, so Hester was a running back in Baton Rouge. Sue me. A second-team All-SEC member of LSU’s ’07 national championship team (he rushed for 1,103 yards that year), Hester converted to fullback in the NFL. Undersized at 5-foot-11 and 235 pounds, he still managed to carve out a nice NFL career of five-plus years with the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.
Peyton Hillis, Arkansas (2004-07): A forgotten member of the all-time great backfields featuring Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, it was Hillis who became a Madden cover boy while playing for the Cleveland Browns. In addition to blocking for those two superstars, Hillis was an underrated pass-catcher for the Razorbacks, averaging 10.1 yards per reception as a fullback — on 118 catches. It appears his seven-year NFL career may be over now, but as a seventh-round pick, he gained 1,654 total yards of offense during the 2010 season.
Austin Johnson, Tennessee (2008-11): In addition to what’s become a commendable beard, Johnson pulled off what former Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall will attempt during training camp — making a team as an undrafted rookie while switching back to a position he abandoned in college. As a junior in Knoxville, Johnson switched from fullback to linebacker, starting all 12 games and making four interceptions in 2011 as the last middle linebacker before A.J. Johnson (no relation). He remains a member of the New Orleans Saints today.
Le’Ron McClain, Alabama (2003-06): A two-time All-Pro for the Baltimore Ravens, McClain barely played at Alabama in the last decade, but squeaked onto the list. A physical, competitive force for the Tide, McClain played behind Tim Castille and under head coach Mike Shula in Tuscaloosa. He briefly became a ball-carrier for the Ravens in ’08, gaining more than 1,000 yards of total offense. Released by the San Diego Chargers in 2014, McClain was arrested for trafficking synthetic marijuana.
Jay Prosch, Illinois/Auburn (2010-13): Prosch transferred to Auburn before his junior season to be closer to his mother, who unfortunately died of brain cancer in September 2012. On the field, Prosch became a huge, underrated lead blocker who spearheaded the No. 1 rushing attack in the country in 2013 as Auburn’s H-back. The Tigers won an SEC championship that year under first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, and Prosch spent last season as an NFL rookie with the Houston Texans.