116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MOUNT VERNON — Joel Lacy wondered about his role when the college football season started.
Cornell College’s freshman running back couldn’t have predicted the impact he’s made with two games remaining.
“It’s been good,” Lacy said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to make a difference. One of my thoughts coming in was when I would or wouldn’t have that workload. I’m glad I do.”
The former New London prep leads the Rams in rushing yards and carries and has seven touchdowns through the first eight games. Lacy will try to add to that total when Cornell hosts Knox (Ill.) College Saturday at Van Metre Field of Ash Park.
The 6-foot, 200-pound ball carrier has progressed with the season and has 500 yards, averaging 6.2 per rush.
“He’s done a great job, especially running the ball,” Rams Coach Dan Pifer said. “He’s getting better and better every week.
“He’s got the size, being able to handle coming in to the college level as a freshman. Most guys’ biggest thing is they aren’t physically ready to handle that and he can. That has been a huge advantage for him.”
Lacy has taken advantage of most of his opportunities. In just his second game of the season, he amassed 155 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and added a 6-yard TD reception.
His season-best came a few games later, running 21 times for 191 yards and two scores. Lacy’s role continues to expand as he grows.
“The most important part is try to be as consistent as possible,” Lacy said. “Those opportunities and chances will show themselves, eventually.
“I’ve picked up on it pretty fast. Everything has gone pretty well. I’m just trying to be consistently good.”
Cornell opened the season with a committee of running backs. Twelve have logged a carry this season. None have rushed as much as Lacy and Tony Gomez, who has 77 carries for 252 yards and a TD.
The relationship they have built has benefited both. They are usually paired together in sets. They run similar plays and block for one another. Pifer said they are similar backs with Lacy being younger and bigger.
“They share that same responsibility on different plays,” Pifer said. “I think that has morphed into something the last few games.
“Those two are feeding off each other.”
Lacy added, “(Gomez) he teaches me a lot of tips and tricks. He is always there to help you out if you have any questions or positive feedback and critique you when you need it. It’s good to have that.”
Interestingly, Lacy has a history of successful running backs in his family. Former Alabama and Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy is his first cousin.
Lacy said that he had “cool” experiences watching his cousin play at home for the Crimson Tide and a couple times at Lambeau Field.
People’s perspectives change sometimes when they discover the connection. He handles it in stride and focuses on his own effort.
“I try to make a name for myself and put that behind me,” Lacy said. “I feel like there is sort of an expectation I have to meet. I just try to do what I can do and do the best I can do.”
Lacy’s best comes when he’s running north and south. He is a power runner that can run off tackle. He does have skills that complement his ability to pound the ball.
“He does have some moves,” Pifer said. “He can jump, cut and do all that kind of stuff, but he’s definitely a downhill kind of guy.”
Lacy has demonstrated the ability to catch the ball as well. He has two receiving TDs, including an 8-yard score last week against Illinois College.
“He’s got great hands,” Pifer said of Lacy. “He catches the ball really well out of the backfield.”
The Rams are 2-6 overall and 2-5 in the Midwest Conference. They finish the season at home against the Prairie Fire (4-4, 3-4) and Grinnell (2-5, 2-5). Success will be a nice springboard into the offseason and building block for the future.
“I think we need it,” Lacy said. “We need these two wins to finish off the season and get back.”