By Ben Robinson
COLUMBUS — Individual accolades has never been on A.J. Ouellette’s radar. Instead, he has always been about team accomplishments and whenever an individual accolade comes his way Ouellette seems very uncomfortable talking about it.
Which was the case when Ouellette was selected to the All-Mid-American Conference First Team as a running back and named MAC Offensive Player of the Year by the prestigious Touchdown Club.
“It’s a big honor, I guess, but those awards wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for my teammates,” said Ouellette. “I mean, those guys up front (the linemen), they are the reason for all of this (the awards).”
To those who don’t know A.J., it may seem as if he is just being modest. But A.J. is genuine when it comes to the team concept and his teammates.
And in the very next breath his voice cracked when talking about two of his linemen buddies.
“What’s awesome is (Joe) Anderson and (Joe) Lowery were named First Team All-MAC too,” A.J. continued. “I’m so happy for those guys because they deserve every award that comes their way. Not only them, but every offensive linemen who has blocked for me throughout my entire career here (at OU) deserves to be recognized for the hard work they’ve put in. I guess I’m the one who gets the attention because of the numbers, but those are the guys who deserve the credit.”
Once A.J. gets rolling on praising his linemen buddies, there’s no way to get him to talk about himself – even when explaining to him that he is ranked 19th in the entire nation in rushing with significantly less carries than most of those ahead of him.
“That’s cool, but we just found out today that Joe Lowery just rated out as the fifth best tackle in the nation,” Ouellette explained. “How cool is that? Man, to run behind a guy like that is something I can’t even put into words. I’ve been so blessed to play here (at OU).”
Ouellette understands football is the ultimate team game, but he is deserving of every accolade that comes his way as well – even if it makes him uncomfortable talking about it.
That’s because he has proven himself to be a standout player over his career at Ohio University, despite entering the program in 2014 without a single scholarship offer from any Division I program in the country.
And A.J.’s talent came to the forefront very quickly as he entered the first game of his career against Kent State fifth in the depth chart – only to help salvage victory from defeat by rushing for 30 yards in the final game-winning drive after the four running backs ahead of him were pulled due to fumbles.
By the third game of his freshman season Ouellette was entrench as the starter thanks to a 130-yard rushing performance in a 36-24 victory over Idaho.
Four years later, Ouellette is now one of the top running backs in the history of the program as he has rushed for 3,620 yards in his career – good for third in Ohio’s all-time rushing list.
Ouellette is also one of just four Ohio running backs in the history of the program to rush for over 1,000 yards in two seasons as he recorded 1,006 yards last year as a junior and has a total of 1,142 yards this season with one game left to play.
That’s not all. Ouellette’s career-high 12 rushing touchdowns ranks second on the team and are tied for the ninth-most in a single season in program history while his career-high 14 total touchdowns scored ties him for the sixth-most in a single season in program history. Ouellette has rushed for over 100 yards four times in his senior year, going for over 165 yards in each of the last three games, which included a career-high 196 yards in the victory over Buffalo.
Plus, his 32 career rushing touchdowns rank as the fourth-most in program history. He has tallied 13 career 100-yard rushing games, which ranks as the fifth-most in program history.
But to Ouellete, the numbers are a reflection of what his coaches and teammates have done for him throughout his collegiate career.
“You know, I’ve been around great coaches and great teammates here,” Ouellette said. “I knew when I came here (in 20014) that I had the ability to play at this level and I’m just fortunate that my coaches and teammates believed in me. We wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t for them.”
A.J.’s right. He wouldn’t be where he’s at without his coaches and teammates.
But, they wouldn’t be where they’re at without A.J.