Imitation is the highest form of flattery, especially in the backfield.
Southern Utah University running backs James “Misi” Felila and Jay Green Jr. are doing their best impersonations of two of college football’s most decorated athletes, Felix “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis of the 1940’s Army Black Knights, better known by most as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.
Felila’s game follows in the footsteps of the legendary Doc Blanchard before him. Blanchard is considered one of the greatest running backs of all-time. He was a bruiser that was quick enough to get around linebackers, yet strong enough to bulldoze defensive backs.
Felila presents those same problems for opposing defenses. One of the strongest North-South runners in the Big Sky, Felila does his work between the tackles and runs through defenders like sacks of flour.
“Misi is very explosive. He can go from zero to ten extremely quick. People bounce off him because he’s a bigger back and he can do that. He gets a lot of yards after contact,” said SUU running backs coach Sam Elliott.
But the similarities don’t stop there.
Blanchard had a special knack for falling forward and breaking tackles, and Felila exemplifies that today. Blanchard also went by his nickname, “Doc,” and everyone on the football team refers to Felila by, “Misi”.
Felila is a strong, silent type. His grit and determination set the tone for the running game. He chooses to let his punishing runs do the talking for him.
“Misi has a lot of runs where he breaks a tackle, breaks another tackle, and then you know, carries a guy,” Elliott continued. “At Northern Colorado last year he had a 40-yard run where a guy was literally draped on his back and he carried him for 20-yards.
Jay Green Jr., on the other hand, more closely resembles the Glenn Davis archetype.
Davis was an incredible athlete who used his speed and shiftiness to get to the edge and make big plays. Likewise, Green gets into the open field often and uses his great balance and vision to extend his runs.
“Jay had a run against Arizona where he kept his balance, pirowhetted and tiptoed and got in to score the touchdown. He finds a way to stay up and keep that balance for an extra three-four yards, constantly,” said Elliott.
Green is very well spoken and outgoing. He is a vocal leader who quips and laughs with his teammates and coaches. Green hails from the small town of Modesto, California where the media used to surround him after every high school football game.
“Jay always knows what to say. He had played [at Junior College] and we needed a guy with playing experience and that could come in and be a leader, and he came in and from the get-go he was the leader… He’s not the kind of guy to chirp about himself, he’s very humble.” said Elliott.
Green loves the physicality of the position and laughs about how running backs really just love to go out and hit people. He is an adrenaline junkie and his favorite hit is the one he might land on the safety.
“I didn’t start playing football until I was about ten, a bit later than most kids. I played basketball and baseball,” said Green. “When I found out about football, I just liked the contact and how fast it is.”
Glenn Davis was also a multi-sport athlete. Davis lettered in four different sports at West Point, but his first love, like Green’s, was always football. Davis excelled at bouncing outside the tackles, making one man miss and sprinting toward the sideline.
Green clearly follows in Davis’ footsteps today with his elusive runs.
The T-Bird backfield’s personalities reflect in the way play on the field. Felila is hard-nosed and leaves carnage wherever he runs. Green is happy to leave defenders reaching for him as he scampers by.
“[Felila and Green] are workhorses. They’re always battling and the offensive line opens up great holes for them and they finish. They feed off each other. One guy goes off and the other guy is competitive enough to really push him.” said Head coach Demario Warren.
Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were consensus All- Americans three times. They won the Heisman trophy in consecutive years (Blanchard in ‘45, Davis in ‘46). Felila and Green probably won’t go on to reach the same accolades, but they do compare to the Black Knight greats in their running styles and personalities.
Now, some 70 years after the original Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, the T-Birds have their very own rendition of that iconic duo.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photos Courtesy of: SUU Athletics Strategic Communications