When running back Justin Covington arrived at Villanova six years ago, he didn’t have his sights set on rushing for a certain number of yards or scoring this many touchdowns. Instead, he said his goal was to become “the best football player I could be.”
But as Covington worked to achieve that goal, those stats that he wasn’t focusing on began to pile up, and on Oct. 16 against Albany, the graduate student entered an exclusive club at Villanova: the 2,000-yards rushing club.
“It felt good,” Covington said of the achievement. “I probably never thought about that really happening...It felt good just to be up there with all the other guys who rushed for 2,000 yards.”
Covington became just the 12th player in program history to earn the 2,000 rushing yards mark and the first since Covington’s former teammate Aaron Forbes in 2018. Sitting at 2,056 rushing yards and with three regular-season games remaining, entering the top-seven (more than 2,220 yards) isn’t out of the question for Covington.
The Bronx, New York native got to the Main Line in 2016, where he redshirted in his first year under head coach Andy Talley. As a redshirt freshman and sophomore, now with Mark Ferrante at the helm, Covington played behind Forbes, rushing for 551 yards and a touchdown across two seasons.
As a redshirt junior, Covington took over as the number one running back, rushing for 727 yards and three touchdowns in six games. His impressive play in limited time led to him being named to the all-CAA third team, but Covington’s new role as the team's head running back wasn't his only new title; he was also named a captain.
Covington continued his stellar reputation on and off the field as a redshirt senior. In just four games during the COVID-19 shortened season, he ran for more than 300 yards and six touchdowns, earning all-CAA second team honors. Not only was he recognized for his leadership skills by being named a captain once again, but he gathered praise from the entire conference when he earned the CAA Football Chuck Boone Leadership and Excellence Award.
It’s no surprise that as a graduate student, Covington was once again named a team captain. As one of the oldest players on the team and in his sixth year of college, Covington’s duty off the field is crystal clear.
“I know my role on the team, just making sure the young guys are good and making sure the team is good,” he said. “Almost always setting a good example, just being that guy people can look at, come to, for anything they need.”
In addition to his prominent leadership role, Covington continues to be a focal point of the offense for the 6-2 Wildcats. He has run for 469 yards and three touchdowns in six games this season and will likely earn CAA honors for the third consecutive season.
Coming from fast-moving New York to the more relaxed vibe at Villanova is definitely a new experience, but for Covington, it was a good one.
“I’ve been here six years, so it’s definitely like a second home to me,” he said. “The people I’ve met here have made this experience worthwhile.”
As his career at Villanova wraps up, one thing that Covington is taking away from his experience is the team’s motto, “tap the rock.”
“There’s definitely some ups and downs that we’ve had in the last six seasons,” he said. “Some good ones, some bad ones. But we just continue to fight, continue to love each other, work hard and this season’s kind of going good, so we’re not trying to be satisfied but just continue to make things happen.”