A Look at Recent Gopher Running Backs and Where they are now


If you are a fan of Minnesota Gopher football you would know they got their shit pushed in by Michigan last Saturday. However, one bright spot from that horrendous game was Redshirt Junior RB Mohamed Ibrahim. Ibrahim piled up 157 total scrimmage yards and was able to score 2 TD’s.

This performance got me thinking, no matter how horrible this program has been in recent years, they have always seemed to have had an above average starting running back. Obviously there are the three legends, Bruce Smith, Bronko Nagurski and Darrell Thompson. I am not taking anything away from these guys, but lets be honest, that’s old news. Let’s take a look at some more recent examples.

Marion Barber III (2001-04)

U of M Career:

Marion Barber III was a 5-11 190lb Running Back out of Wayzata High School, when he followed his father’s footsteps (Marion Barber Jr) and committed to play for the Gophers in February of 2001. Barber III was able to make an impact as soon as he arrived on campus, racking up 742 yards and 7 scores in his Freshman season. Barber III really shined in his Junior and Senior season when he was involved in a backfield tandem with Lauerence Maroney (More on him later). He went on to be named All-Big Ten First Team in 2003. Barber III eventually finished his Gophers career with 3,276 rushing yards and 35 TDs. Barber III currently sits in 5th place on the all time rushing leader list for the Gophers.

Pro Career:

Barber III went on to be drafted in the 4th round (109th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2005 NFL Draft. Barber had some very productive years in his 6 year span with the Cowboys, including a Pro Bowl selection in 2007. Barber III ended up retiring in 2012, and has since gotten himself in legal trouble on multiple occasions.

Laurence Maroney (2003-05)

U of M Career:

Laurence Maroney was a 3 star recruit out of St. Louis, MO. Maroney was the other half of Minnesota’s lethal backfield tandem in 2003 and 2004. Maroney was able to secure Big Ten Freshman of the year in 2003 and helped lead the Gophers to bowl games every year he was on campus. Most impressively, Maroney is 3rd on the Gophers all time rushing list, even with only playing 3 seasons.

Pro Career:

Maroney was drafted in the 1st round (21st overall) by the New England Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft. Maroney never lived up to expectations having only played 5 seasons in the NFL with both the Patriots and Broncos. Maroney was arrested in 2011 on weapons charges, and even though all charges were dropped, this was the last we heard from him. Maroney finished his pro career with 2,504 yards and 21 TDs.

David Cobb (2011-14)

U of M Career:

David Cobb made the RB position at the University of Minnesota great again. It wasn’t until Cobb’s Junior season, when he finally got a chance, that he burst onto the scene. Cobb brought an excitement to the RB position that Gopher fans were desperate for since Maroney and Barber III left the Twin Cities. Cobb produced 2,831 yards and 20 TDs in the two seasons in which he was the starter.

Pro Career:

Cobb was drafted in the 5th round (138th overall) by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft. Unfortunately Cobb’s college success would not transfer to the NFL. Cobb only played one season with the Titans, then has short stays on the practice squads of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears. Cobb had stints with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL (Canadian Football League) and the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF (Alliance of American Football). Cobb has not been on an active roster since, but it is unclear if he has officially retired or not.

Rodney Smith (2015-19)

U of M Career:

Rodney Smith is going to be the most popular name here as he is the most recent player to play for the Gophers. Smith has been mentioned in the conversation of being the greatest Running Back to ever play for the Gophers. Although I do not agree with that, there is no denying that he was electric on the gridiron. Smith ranks 1st on the all time Gopher rushing list. Smith played 5 season with the Gophers and finished with 4,122 yards and 29 TDs.

Pro Career:

Rodney Smith was not selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, but has since been signed the Carolina Panthers Practice Squad. I think it is safe to say that every Gopher fan wishes Smith the best in his pro career and proves every team wrong.

There is no denying that the RB position has been very fun to watch for many years when it comes to Gopher Football. Here is to hoping that Mohamed Ibrahim can eventually be added to this list.

Row The Boat


Go Gophers