Athlete of the Week: Justin Covington, Football

Villanova running back, Justin Covington has been tormenting opposing defenses this season. This past Saturday was no different as the redshirt-junior racked up 194 yards on 27 carries in a  signature win over fifth-ranked Towson. 

Covington currently leads the country in rushing yards, with 556 over the course of four games. He’s scored on the ground twice, and also once through the air. Covington is certainly having a breakout in his first season as the Wildcats’ workhorse running back. It may seem like a surprise to some fans, but anybody who knows Covington would know this breakout has been a long time coming. 

Covington grew up in The Bronx as an only child and grew up very close to his mother. He explained that, as he grew up, a lot of the time it was just he and his mother. He sees his mom as his biggest role model, saying that she’s always worked so hard for him, and he’s always looked up to her and how much she cares about him. Covington largely attributes his academic commitment and diligence to the lessons he’s learned from his mother, saying he would not be where he is today without her. 

Covington has played football since the seventh grade and has always loved the position of running back. Although he grew up a Jets fan, Covington had a favorite player who donned a different uniform: LaDanian Tomlinson. Watching Tomlinson, one of the greatest running backs to ever play the sport, showed Covington the elusive and athletic playing style that he now runs all over opponents with. 

In his senior year of high school, Covington rushed for 1,612 yards and 24 touchdowns, and was named an All-State running back and the Bronx Player of the year. This senior season let Covington establish himself as a talented prospect and led to his recruitment, in which he turned down offers from Navy, Army, Penn and others to commit to the Wildcats. Now-retired coach Andy Talley sold Covington on the Villanova winning culture and offensive style. However, one more important factor played in Covington’s decision: Villanova’s practice schedule and academic programs allowed Covington to still follow his dream to become a nurse. 

Covington’s passion for nursing arose when he was young, and his grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. He and his mother both committed to taking care of her. As he took care of her, he learned how to do the daily routine of taking care of her: serving her food, changing her colostomy bag and attending to her needs. As he did this, he bonded with and grew closer to her. He soon realized he had a passion for taking care of the ill, and decided he wanted to become a nurse so he could do that and also establish personal relationships with the patients. 

Covington’s success this season has exceeded expectations. Anybody could have said he would have a good season, but leading the country in rushing yards by a large margin is certainly better than anyone could have expected. But if you know him, it would not surprise you. Covington is an amazing example of a hard-working and balanced athlete, putting in the work on the field and in the classroom to be the best he can be. Covington is the type of athlete Villanova prides itself on, striving for excellence, athletically and academically. Covington’s breakout has been a long time coming, because he’s been working for it his whole life.