Autry Denson

Former Irish All-Star Autry Denson Named Notre Dame Running Backs Coach

March 2, 2015

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Irish Extra: Autry Denson

Autry Denson, the all-time leading rusher in University of Notre Dame football history, has been named running backs coach for the Fighting Irish.

Denson, who returns to his alma mater following a brief stint as the running backs coach at the University of South Florida, spent the 2014 season as the running backs coach at Miami University.

Denson served as the head coach for one season at Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton, Florida (2010), before transitioning into the college ranks as running backs coach at Bethune-Cookman University for three years (2011-13).

During his tenure at Bethune-Cookman Denson helped the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and Football Championship Series playoff berth in 2013. Bethune-Cookman’s running backs registered 2,179 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns and a 5.4 yards- per-carry average. Isidore Jackson (828 rushing yards, 5.6 yards per carry, eight rushing TDs), Cary White (485, 5.1, eight) and Anthony Jordan (410, 5.0, five) each rushed for at least 400 yards, averaged over 5.0 yards per carry and recorded at least five rushing TDs.

Denson mentored a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012 as Jackson ran for 1,069 yards, becoming the first Wildcat to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since 1997. Jackson finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in rushing, which was the highest finish for a Bethune-Cookman running back in more than 10 years. Denson’s pupils recorded 2,928 yards, collected 28 of the team’s 43 TDs, and four different players ran for more than 400 yards on the year. The Wildcats led the MEAC and finished 10th nationally in rushing (244.4 yards per game).

In his first season at Bethune-Cookman in 2011 Denson guided his running backs to 2,058 rushing yards, which led an offensive ground attack that finished fifth nationally in rushing (259.3 yards per game). Jackson earned All-MEAC first-team honors after rushing for 866 yards and seven TDs.

Denson participated in the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, where he reunited with former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, who drafted him for the Buccaneers in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Denson worked with the Colts and Miami Dolphins.

Denson played five years in the NFL with the Bucs, Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Colts and Detroit Lions. He played in 34 career games in the league, including all 16 for the Bears in 2001 as a special-teams stalwart. Denson ran for 206 yards on 59 carries, and added 18 receptions for 133 yards over his two years with the Dolphins (1999-2000). He played one season for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (2004), where he finished eighth in the league in rushing with 772 yards and nine TDs.

Denson was a four-year monogram winner, three-year starter and two-time most valuable player at Notre Dame (1995-98). He remains the all-time leading rusher in school history with 4,318 yards, and his 43 rushing TDs rank second in Irish annals. No other Notre Dame running back has since come within 1,000 career yards of Denson’s record-setting total. He posted a school-record 23 career 100-yard rushing games. Denson also finished his career as the school’s all-time leader with 5,327 all-purpose yards (now ranking second behind Julius Jones’ 5,462).

Denson, an Associated Press All-America selection as a senior in 1998, eclipsed 1,000 yards over each of his final three years with the Irish. Denson owns three of the top 10 rushing seasons in school history. He rushed for 1,268 yards in 1997 (tied for fourth), 1,179 yards in 1996 (ninth) and 1,176 yards in 1998 (10th). Denson averaged 95.5 yards rushing per game over his career to rank second all-time.

Notre Dame played in the Fiesta (1995), Orange (1996), Independence (1997) and Gator (1999) bowls during his career. He earned MVP honors at the 1999 Gator Bowl when he ran for 130 yards and scored three TDs versus Georgia Tech.

Denson earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame in 1999.

Denson began his coaching career when he formed a youth program called POISE (Perseverance, Opportunity, Intelligence, Sacrifice and Effort). He worked with teenage athletes throughout Broward County, Florida, in education, on the field and in Bible study. The organization led to the creation of the Run for Your Goal Youth (RFYG) Flag Football League, for which he served as commissioner. RFYG provided a safe place for the youth of South Florida to learn the game of football.

A graduate of Nova High School in Davie, Florida, Denson set the Broward County rushing record in 1994. He was named the Miami Herald Player of the Year as well as the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Offensive Player of the Year.

Born in Lauderhill, Florida, Denson and his wife, Elaine, have four children – Ashley, Autry III, Elijah and Asia.

The Denson File

Year School/Franchise Assignment
2015 Notre Dame Running Backs
2015 USF Running Backs
2014 Miami Running Backs
2013 Bethune-Cookman Running Backs (10-3, Mid-Eastern Athletic champion, FCS playoffs)
2012 Bethune-Cookman Running Backs (9-3, Mid-Eastern Athletic champion, FCS playoffs)
2011 Bethune-Cookman Running Backs (8-3)
2010 Pope John Paul II H.S. Head Coach