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Ervin-Poindexter making a case for carries this fall

Walk-on running back impressed IU’s coaching staff during spring practice

NCAA Football: Indiana at Florida International Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There were times last fall when Tom Allen didn’t know the name of the ball carrier sprinting down the sideline in front of him. That’s because Davion Ervin-Poindexter often wasn’t wearing his usual No. 34 Indiana jersey. Most days, he was wearing one of IU’s scout team jerseys, emblazoned with the number of the opposing running back he was simulating during that week’s practices. One week it might have been No. 28, a nod to Penn State’s Devyn Ford. The next, a No. 1 for Rutgers’ Isaih Pacheco. Either way, Ervin-Poindexter regularly donned a number other than the one assigned to him on the roster, briefly confusing his head coach in those moments when he slipped past an Indiana defender, or did something IU’s defense could not quickly contain.

“I’d be like, ‘Man, who’s that guy?’” Allen said.

Through his work behind the scenes last fall, Ervin-Poindexter put himself on the radar of the coaching staff — so much so that IU trusted the walk-on running back to play on special teams in all eight games during the season. After earning IU’s first-ever Chris Beaty Outstanding Walk-On Player of the Year award at the Hoosiers’ postseason banquet, Ervin-Poindexter continued to surface as a hard-working, reliable option this spring.

This summer he’ll head into fall camp looking to push Indiana’s scholarship running backs for carries.

“He’s a really good football player and he’s gonna help this team,” Allen said.

Ervin-Poindexter’s rise is unique not merely because he’s a walk-on, but because he’s a tryout walk-on — and there’s a big difference between a non-scholarship player who is recruited to campus for a guaranteed spot on the team (a preferred walk-on) as opposed to an enrolled student who tries to impress a coach at the annual open tryout.

In a given year, IU might take only a couple of players from the latter category to fill out its scout team. In 2019 — the last year Indiana was able to hold tryouts — Ervin-Poindexter was one of the very few players who caught the attention of the staff. The Merrillville native came to IU after rushing for 15 touchdowns at Brother Rice High School in Chicago, earning all-state honorable mention recognition.

Since latching on with the team in Bloomington, Ervin-Poindexter has demonstrated he has some tools that could help Indiana, too.

“He just has really good suddenness to him as a running back because he’s got really good ball skills,” Allen said. “So he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he makes really good cuts, he’s quick, he’s explosive, he’s tough (and) he makes plays on special teams, whether it’s the cover units or the run units.”

And soon, Ervin-Poindexter may be able to make an impact beyond special teams. During his first stint as IU’s running backs coach, Deland McCullough was not afraid to give touches to walk-ons who did good work in practice. Andrew Wilson, Alex Rodriguez and Ricky Brookins were among the non-scholarship backs who earned their way onto the field under McCullough’s watch, each of them impacting games in significant ways.

Now, after a strong fall and an even better spring, Ervin-Poindexter could be the next player to join that group of walk-ons who have made an imprint in the IU backfield.

“I had somebody ask me, ‘Who’s No. 34?’ when we got done with our last spring scrimmage,” Allen said.

This time, the IU coach didn’t flinch. It’s Davion Ervin-Poindexter. Allen now knows exactly who he is, and soon, other Big Ten coaches could, too.