Matt FortéTulane Football – 2007 Corbett Award Winner
Photo Courtesy of Tulane Athletics
Tulane running back Matt Forte had a season in 2007 that is unmatched by any other running back in the history of Louisiana college football. In fact, what he accomplished has rarely been matched in the history of college football in all 50 states.
Forte, a senior from Slidell, finished the season with 2,127 rushing yards, which shattered the school record and is the sixth-most in NCAA Division I-Bowl Subdivision history. Forte, who bounced back from major knee surgery less than a year before last season began, had five 200-plus-yard rushing games, including two games with more than 300 yards.
For those accomplishments and others, Forte was named by the Sugar Bowl Media Selection Committee as the winner of the James J. Corbett Award as the best male amateur athlete in the state of Louisiana for 2007. The committee also named Forte the Outstanding Male Amateur Athlete for the Greater New Orleans Area.
“In my mind, he was the best running back in the country,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said. “We’ve had an opportunity here at Tulane to see one of the great performances in the history of college football. Here is a guy who is only one of 11 people to ever rush for over 2,000 yards. He did a great job.”
Forte twice broke the Tulane and Conference USA records for rushing yards and touchdowns in a game. The first time came when he rushed for 303 yards and five touchdowns (on 40 carries) against Southeastern Louisiana. Later in the season he rushed for 342 yards (on 38 carries) against SMU and scored five touchdowns against Rice.
At one point during the season, Forte had four consecutive 200-yard games and five 200-yard games out of six, including two 300-yard games. The only time during that stretch that he failed to gain more than 200 yards was against eventual national champion LSU, which at the time had the top-rated defense in the nation.
Forte also set a school record for all-purpose yards with 2,275 (2,007 rushing, 257 receiving, 11 returning). His 342 rushing yards at SMU are the most all-purpose yards in one game in Tulane history.
Toledo has said Forte is as good a football player as he has coached or coached against in his 40 years in college football. While head coach at UCLA, Toledo coached standout running backs such as DeShaun Foster, Skips Hicks, and Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
Shortly into the season, opponents saw the eye-popping numbers Forte was accumulating and knew their No. 1 task, if not their only task, in order to beat the Green Wave was to slow down Forte. He just kept rolling.
“Every coach that I talked to afterwards,” Toledo said, “they see him on film and they see how good he is, and when they see him in person, they realize he’s even better. They realize he’s good and they think they can stop him. Then they play him, and he runs for a couple of hundred yards even though they did everything they could to try and stop him.
“We saw some exotic defenses to try and not let him rush for 200 yards. I think after the game, there’s much more of an appreciation for Matt Forté than there is going into the game.”
Forte’s teammates had as much appreciation for him as anyone. They were understandably thrilled when he broke the 2,000-yard mark against Rice.
“I won’t forget that play,” quarterback Anthony Scelfo said of the historic 8-yard, fourth-quarter run. “We ran a stretch play outside and as soon as he cut it up, I said, there it is. He’s got 2,000 yards and I handed the ball off to him.
“I’m getting the picture autographed or something from him. It’s unbelievable to be a part of a season like that. I wish he would have gotten more recognition than he did because he definitely deserves it.”
Forte was invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl all-star game after the season and opened the eyes of a lot of NFL scouts in practice and as he earned the game’s Most Valuable Player Award by rushing for a game-high 59 yards and catching four passes for 38 yards.
“It’s nice to see your hard work pay off,” the always-humble Forte said. “You come out and perform, and the coaches see that you work hard and that you take this seriously.”
Toledo predicted the eye-opening will continue into the fall and beyond as Forte’s NFL career gets under way.
“He’ll show everybody in the long run that he’s the best running back in this country,” Toledo said. “And when he gets into the NFL he’ll prove to everybody that he’s a great, great running back just like I’ve said from the beginning.
“I tell you what, people are going to find out. He’ll play pro football and people will realize. They’ll be like, ‘Wow, where did this Matt Forté come from?’ Then they’ll realize he was a great football player in college.”