GREENSBORO - Why isn't Mike Mayhew carrying the load like he has throughout his career? Over the first three games of the season, it was the question buzzing around the North Carolina A&T football program about the senior running back.
No matter how many times head coach Rod Broadway explained the situation, the questions kept coming. No one wanted to accept that junior running back Dominique Drake earned the right to start over the preseason MEAC Offensive Player of the Year. No one wanted to accept that a player on the brink of breaking the school rushing record was not a starter.
But when Broadway came to A&T, he made it clear that starting positions are earned in practice. It's not just a cliché for him, and during the early part of the season he made a believer out of many. Mayhew, who is the Aggies all-time leader in carries, had just 30 carries in three games going into Thursday night's game against Morgan State.
Prior to A&T's 21-18 loss to the Bears, Broadway came to the Charlotte native and told him he was going to get some touches. He then delivered another message.
"I hope you get it," Broadway told him about becoming A&T's all-time leading rusher.
In Broadway's mind, Mayhew had earned the right to more carries. This was evident throughout the game. Mayhew ran hard, he ran between the tackles and he punished would-be tacklers. In the second quarter, four years of terrific runs, taking on thunderous hits and going through grueling offseason workouts, it all paid off.
Mayhew took the handoff from quarterback Lewis Kindle and did what A&T fans have come accustomed to see him doing. He made the first tackler missed, bounced to the outside, avoided two more tackles before being stopped for an 8-yard gain to the MSU 10-yard line. The run changed A&T history as Mayhew broke Maurice Hicks' 11-year old all-time rushing record.
Mayhew snapped the record in style as he earned his 12th career 100-yard game with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. In fact, if it were not for Morgan State's last-second theatrics to win the game, Mayhew would have been Thursday night's hero. Both of his touchdowns came in the fourth quarter on superb runs.
"'m happy for him," said Broadway. "That's a great milestone for that young man. He ran the ball hard tonight. He hit downhill a couple of times and put down his pads and ran like Mike Mayhew is capable of running. I hope he can continue to keep running like that. We're going to be a good football team if he keeps running like that the rest of the season."
The way Mayhew reached the milestone may make it even sweeter for him as his life progresses. Throughout preseason camp he had to outwork Drake and Ricky Lewis for playing time. Drake's improvement was apparent, and therefore, he started the first three games of the season. Mayhew had to earn his opportunities on Thursday, and his perseverance helped him make history in front of a national television audience on ESPNU.
"I'm always going to remember this experience," said Mayhew. "This is probably going to be one of the biggest accomplishments I'll ever accomplish in my life. I'm glad they (my family) were here to witness it."
Mayhew has rushed for 2,882 yards in his career. He will become the first Aggie and 12th rusher in MEAC history to record 3,000 yards in a career. Even after reaching a significant milestone, it was still about team. Enough questions asked.
"It feels good," said Mayhew. "But it would be a better feeling if we could have got the 'W' tonight."