Running Away with the Lead: Bear running back on pace for best statistical season since 2014

Alfonzo Graham is the Bears’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014 when Herb Walker Jr. racked up 1,448 yards.


Jordan D. Brown

Alfonzo Graham, senior running back, currently has 1,039 yards rushing this season.

Alex Ederson and Lake Marion

Alfonzo Graham’s senior season has been successful to say the least. The Morgan State Bears’ (4-6) senior running back currently has 1,039 yards rushing and eight touchdowns this season as he looks to add to his impressive season in the finale against Howard University.

Graham has run away with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) rushing title this season.

Latrell Collier, running back at North Carolina Central University, is the next rusher in line with 751 yards.

Graham is the Bears first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014 when Herb Walker Jr. racked up 1,448 yards.

The feat of 1,000 yards is not something that is done single handedly. In the penultimate game against Delaware State, Graham did not have a great game by his standards, rushing 21 times for 73 yards.

However, the team banded together in the fourth quarter as they knew Graham was close to the milestone.

“The Delaware State game, I didn’t have a good game, but my team knew that I was 34 yards away (from 1,000-yards),” Graham said. “The fourth quarter was special because my whole team came together … Everyone was like, ‘We gonna make sure you get these 34 yards right here right now.’”

David Fant Jr, Bears running back coach, has been amazed at the talent Graham possesses as the engine behind the Bears rushing attack.

“He has been big, he makes a lot happen even when plays aren’t going our way, ” Fant Jr. said. “He’s able to kind of just really make lemonade out of lemons.”

Graham, a 2018 graduate of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, started his high school football career at Franklin High School in the Baltimore County Public School system before transferring to Reginald F. Lewis High School. He led them to their best ever record. before finding himself at Dunbar.

Graham helped Dunbar win the Baltimore City Division 1 title in 2017, the first time since the 2014 season. They also won the school’s 10th Maryland Class 1A State Championship.

Despite seeing success across various high schools, Graham saw himself under-recruited coming out of high school.

He made his way through the gauntlet that is the junior college route, first going to Arizona Western College in 2018, Independence Community College in spring 2019, and Fullerton College for the 2019 season.

After not playing college football for a whole year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham came back to his hometown and decided to continue his football career at Morgan State University for the 2021 season.

In Graham’s first season with Morgan, he was unable to fully capture the starting role but led the team in rushing with 506 yards. He only played in nine out of 11 games and was one of the bright spots on a Bears team that went 2-9.

Graham ranked fifth in the MEAC in rushing and averaged 9.4 yards on 54 carries, scoring five touchdowns in the nine games that he played in that season.

Before the start of the 2022 season, the Bears brought in Damon Wilson, former Bowie State head football coach, back in June.

Prior to his arrival, the Bear were 5-18 under former head coach Tyrone Wheatley. The culture change within the Bears locker room has not gone unnoticed by the team.

“Coach Damon Wilson, he’s the goat man,” said Graham. “He’s a player-coach, he understands it. He changed the culture. He’s a great coach, man. Great hire.”

It is safe to say that the Bears have improved under their new head coach. Graham has also seen improvement as well. Fant Jr. credits it to Graham’s attention to detail and “his desire to be great.”

“Some guys are cool with being good,” Fant Jr. said. “He’s very hard on himself… everything has to be perfect.”

Fant Jr. and Graham, prior to the start of the season, set some goals going forward.  “Let’s get 1,000 (yards). Let’s try to get 10 touchdowns,” Fant Jr. said.

Multiple coaches saw the hunger that Graham had to succeed, but there was also a real desire to step into more of a leadership role on Graham’s end.

Offensive coordinator BT Sherman counted on Graham to be a leader for the team this season as the Bears won and lost some “nail biters” this year.

“He’s been one of the guys that comes to work every day. He works hard and tries to get guys to follow behind him,” Sherman said. “At the same time, he’s learning and trusting us as a coaching staff and he’s really just trying to help me implement what we’re trying to get close to.”

So far this season, Graham has played all 10 games for the Bears thus far. In four of 10 of those games, he rushed for over 100-yards.

His biggest rushing day was against Norfolk State University during homecoming week where he rushed for 203-yards in a losing effort.

Graham gave thanks to his offensive line and coaches for his success this season. “Shoutout to my O-line men and my coaches for getting me prepared,” said Graham.

The work Graham has put in has not gone unnoticed this season. He was given an invite to the second annual HBCU Pigskin Classic, a bowl game that gives players from historically Black colleges and universities a chance to showcase their talent to fans across the country and NFL scouts.

Graham and the Bears coaching are preparing for this Saturday’s game against Howard University as they wrap up their season. The Bison are currently allowing 170 yards rushing per game and Sherman wants to take advantage of that at any given possibility.

“Morgan’s strength is running the football so it’s up to me to try to figure out ways to exploit Howard’s run defense and put us in good situations and put those guys in compromising situations,” Sherman said.

Saturday’s game against Howard also marks the Bears Senior Day and will be Graham’s final game in a Bears jersey. This will be a special moment for Graham as his family will be there to watch and support him.

“I know my mom is going to cry. We’ve been through a lot,” Graham said. “I’m prepared for that… It’s gonna feel great, man.”

Graham’s journey in college football has taken him all across the country. He battled it out on the junior college circuit before coming back to his hometown of Baltimore, but it will finally come to a close this weekend and he wants to put on a show.

“I want to be remembered, man. I want to go out with a bang,” Graham said. “This game right here is going to be special. A lot of people are gonna remember this game.”