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'I do not care': Miami running back Duke Johnson simply not interested in talk of awards

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CORAL GABLES, Florida — Miami running back Duke Johnson can often be found walking alone, wearing noise-canceling headphones as he listens to some music.

The nifty headset doesn't seem necessary.

Even without it, Johnson blocks out plenty of noise.

Talk of his eye-catching statistics, talk of records he's either already set or is on the cusp of securing — like Miami's all-time rushing mark — and even talk of his chances at getting into the Heisman Trophy conversation, none of it piques Johnson's interest. He insists that when it comes how he's faring on the field and how the Hurricanes' season is going, his focus is solely on what he can control.

Everything else, well, it's just noise.

"What people say, I do not care," Johnson said slowly, as if for effect.

Really?

"Really," Johnson said.

So Heisman talk, record talk, even talk of Miami's next opponent — that would be Florida State, next Saturday night in prime time — it's all irrelevant in Johnson's book. The Hurricanes (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) know they're going to the postseason but still have some other goals to chase, and they seem to be stoking Johnson's fire more than anything else.

Leading the nation in yards from scrimmage so far, posting five straight 100-yard games, tying a school record with a 90-yard run, it doesn't faze him. Neither does speculation about his draft status; it would not be a surprise if he skipped his senior season to pursue the NFL, but Johnson isn't saying much about what the future holds.

"Adversity has made him appreciate everything a lot more," Miami coach Al Golden said. "His circle is tight. He's got an incredible mom who keeps him humble and on task. He's a Miami Hurricane and I think he understands that this record, while it's significant anywhere, it carries a great deal more at the University of Miami as it relates to running backs."

Johnson has 3,080 yards in basically the equivalent of 2½ seasons, after missing most of the second half of 2013 after breaking an ankle against Florida State.

The only Miami back ever with more yards is Ottis Anderson, the Super Bowl MVP who piled up 3,331 in his four collegiate seasons.

"My record ... has stood 4 a long time," Anderson wrote on Twitter this week. "It'll be broken one day."

Someday soon, probably.

Johnson started this season 15th on Miami's all-time list. He's passed everyone but one since, names like Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Lamar Miller and Alonzo Highsmith.

Miami's all-purpose yards record belonged to Johnson long ago. The mark for most 100-yard games as a Hurricane is within reach; he has 12, the record there is 14. And this isn't a one-year phenomenon; among active players with at least 10 games in their careers, Johnson ranks second in scrimmage yards with 125.9 per game — 3.7 yards back of Georgia's Todd Gurley.

"My team makes it easy for me," Johnson said, shrugging. "I just make plays."

Sometimes, it's seemed like Golden is the only coach who can stop Johnson. And that's a good thing.

Even though Johnson added eight pounds of upper-body muscle going into this season, Miami has been leery of overusing its best weapon. Offensive lineman Danny Isidora has been on the field for 577 snaps this season, as has middle linebacker Denzel Perryman.

Johnson has been on the field for 335 snaps, and probably hasn't been hit on much more than half of them.

"We want to keep his odometer down," Golden said. "We want to keep the hits off him. That's the biggest thing. His production is up but his overall play count is down. And I think he'd be the first to tell you, I think he's fresh and playing his best football right now."

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