When freshmen arrive on campus to begin their careers as collegiate football players they want to make an impact right away. For most, their freshman year is a learning experience that can limit their playing time due to the need to adapt to the speed of the college game. However, there are those individuals who, when given their chance, prove they are ready to be star players from the very first moment they walk onto the field. One such freshman was ShanDerrick Charles in 2001. His record breaking season comes in at No. 69 in our countdown of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
In the first four games of his collegiate career, Charles carried the ball only once and did not gain a yard. However, Charles was given an opportunity to showcase his talents against San Jose State on Oct. 13 after the Mustangs' leading rusher, Keylon Kincade, didn't travel with the team due to a concussion. In a battle between conference foes, Charles had the game of his life. Charles rushed for a career-high 243 yards on 27 carries and his only touchdown was the decisive blow in SMU's 24-17 victory over San Jose State.
Charles averaged better than nine yards per carry including a 49-yard run. But his touchdown was among his shortest carries in the game as he scored from one yard out to cap a 49-yard drive that gave the Mustangs a 24-14 lead with 12:11 left in the game. What was more amazing about his accomplishment was that all of his carries came after the first quarter. Charles led the Mustangs to their first win of the season. That single-game total topped the 241-yard mark of Eric Dickerson and fell one yard shy of the school record (244 yards by Mike Richardson in 1968).
Two weeks later in the Mustangs next game against UTEP, Charles rushed for 212 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns as SMU coasted to a 40-14 Western Athletic Conference victory. This marked the first time in school history that a running back had rushed for more than 200 yards in consecutive games. By the end of the season, Charles had rushed for more yards than any freshman in school history.
As a true freshman Charles rushed for 860 yards, breaking the school freshman record of 761 yards set by Craig James in 1979. James accomplished the feat after playing in all 11 games of the season, while Charles broke the record after receiving playing time in just seven games. Charles carried the ball 134 times compared to 168 by James. His record breaking season was one of the most exciting in school history making it one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.