With four minutes to play in the first half of Ole Miss’s game against Auburn last Saturday, junior running back Akeem Judd took a handoff from Chad Kelly to the left side of the field. Judd lunged forward for about five yards before making a quick jump cut to the right, and with a burst of speed he took it 25 yards into the end zone, tying the game at 10.
It was a crucial moment in a game the Rebels would win. In that moment, the junior from Raleigh, North Carolina came into the spotlight, and he may be here to stay.
“This is what you’re praying on when you go to sleep at night, to be in the position that I’m in,” Judd said. “Coach called my name and I had to take it and run with it.”
Judd’s emergence in the last two games has provided a boost to an Ole Miss run game that seemed to come alive again after getting junior offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil back on the field.
Judd has rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown the last two games and is averaging over six yards per carry. Judd has become a weapon in the pistol formation, in which Ole Miss averages 7.6 yards per carry in part because of Judd.
“You can see the whole field instead of only being able to read it from one side standing next to the quarterback,” Judd said about running from the pistol formation. “That’s what I’m used to. I played junior college (football) in the pistol, and I’m more comfortable with that.”
Judd seemed to hit his stride and become a north-to-south type feature back in the Ole Miss running game.
It hasn’t been an easy road to get to where Judd is. Growing up in poverty in Durham, Judd, the youngest of four children, did not have either parent in his life and was raised by his god-parents.
“My mom is not really in my life. I stay with my god-parents,” Judd said. “I grew up in poverty and in a real bad neighborhood. Not too many people make it out.”
Judd said he was the only person at Southern Durham High School to attend college.
After spending two years at Georgia Military College, Judd received a scholarship from Ole Miss. After sitting out in 2014, Judd didn’t see many carries in the first half of this season. He noted that learning the plays in a fast paced offense was difficult, and sometimes questioned his ability to play at the SEC level, but in the end, he knew the ability was there.
“I learned to cope with it,” Judd said. “It came to the back of my mind a couple times, but I knew I had the talent to play, I just needed the opportunity.”
Judd also credited his faith for his development.
“Our chaplain John Powell, he prayed on it a lot with me, and I actually got saved,” Judd said. “Once I got saved a lot of stuff started changing for me.”
As Judd prepares for Arkansas this week, the routine will be the same: a A bible study between him and Powell on Friday before getting ready to face a talented Arkansas defense on Saturday.
“They’re safety’s come downhill real quick, they don’t wait on you to get to the second level,” Judd said. “They got big d-linemen and the linebackers are pretty solid. It’s gonna be a good game.”