Danny Triplett doesn’t look like a college running back. Certainly not a Division 3 running back.
But the 5-10 1/2, 235-pound fire hydrant from Haverhill has been a standout at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt., for the last four years.
Asked to describe Triplett’s running style, Cadets coach Mark Murnyack said simply, “Bruising.”
Triplett was even bigger early in high school and admittedly had considerably more baby fat.
But when he looked in the mirror, he always saw a running back. When it was time for college, he let people know he wanted to carry the ball.
“Some wanted me at linebacker,” he said. “I just wasn’t buying it. In my heart, I was a running back. Typically, running backs are smaller, but I just felt I could do what they do.”
It took time for the former lineman to win people over and to get himself in better shape. It wasn’t until his senior year at Haverhill that he started being a key option in the backfield. He ran for 858 yards that fall.
After playing second fiddle to Andrew Fulford his first three years at Norwich, Triplett has been the go-to player this fall and has made the most of it, rushing for 645 yards on 115 carries for a healthy 5.6 yard average.
In yesterday’s comeback 34-24 win over Gallaudet in Washington, D.C., he scored twice, including his first career TD catch. He’s scored seven TDs for the 4-2 Cadets, giving him 24 career scores. Surprisingly few college players in area history have scored that often (see graphic).
“Honestly, it’s been great,” said Triplett, who was more of a lineman at Haverhill until his senior year.
“I was very confident. (Fulford) and I are great friends. I never told him, but he was a role model for how hard he worked. It’s carried over to my own abilities.”
Convincing people he was a back was one thing. He also had to convince himself and others he could cut it as a college student.
“I didn’t have a strong academic background,” he said. “I took it for granted. I hung around with the wrong crowd.”
Norwich was rural and seemed a million miles away for the city kid. But he knew he had to make changes and the discipline of a military school — he has chosen the non-military curriculum, though — may be what he needed.
A strange feeling swept over him while attending a Norwich hockey game during his recruiting visit.
“My grandfather passed away around the time I was being recruited,” he explained. “The scoreboard was frozen with the number 33 for 2-3 minutes. It was kind of like a sign he was telling me this was the place to be.”
As it turned out for the kid who has worn No. 33 since high school, it was the place to be.
“Each year he’s taken strides that have been impressive and we’re proud of,” said Murnyack. “From player to student to person. In all those areas, he’s made great strides and really matured. ... There is never a day he doesn’t work. Any success he’s had has been a direct result of the effort he’s put in.”
The next goal is to pursue a career in law enforcement, perhaps as a state trooper or member of the SWAT team.
Murnyack always expected this would be a big year for the big man.
“There was absolutely no concern whatsoever,” said the coach, who runs a run-oriented spread offense. “He’s been able to produce. But this year he’s the guy. He really committed himself to be the guy and be the man.”
Quietly he’s moved up the all-time lists in the 120-year history of the program. He’s No. 5 in career rushing touchdowns and his 6.3 yard career average per rushing attempt is No. 2 to the 6.6 by Mike Crimmins, who graduated in 1979.
He’s got the bowling ball frame and he bench presses 225 pounds 17 times. That, according to the Norwich strength chart, is the equivalent of a whopping 405-pound maximum bench press.
“He’ll run through or over someone, then he’ll burst away like you wouldn’t imagine a big man bursting,” said Murnyack.
In Danny Triplett’s four years as a letterman at Haverhill High, the Hillies were just 8-35 including 2-20 in his final two seasons.
He’s elated over the recent Hillie renaissance.
“There are no words to describe how proud I am of that program,” he said. “Haverhill was at rock bottom. I feel proud to be part of it ... a stepping stone to where we are now.”
20-touchdown club The following local football players have scored 20 career TDs in college: Name High School College TDs Chris Sharpe Pinkerton Springfield '08 72 Joe Segreti Pinkerton Holy Cross '91 44 J.T. Harold North Andover/Austin UMass Dartmouth '09 42 Russ Massahos Pinkerton Plymouth St. '02 39 Buddy Farnham Andover Brown '10 31 Joe Cerami Methuen Bentley '97 29 Colin Arsenault Andover Bentley '97 25 Pat McCarthy Central Holy Cross '63 25 Danny Triplett Haverhill Norwich '13 24 Dan Conway Haverhill BC '80 23 Rob Konrad North Andover/St. John's Syracuse '99 23 Sid Watson Andover Northeastern '56 23 Mike O'Donnell Central St. Lawrence '08 22 Jeff St. Onge Central Salve Regina '10 21 John Perry Andover UNH '93 21 Brad Dick Georgetown Curry '05 20 If you have an addition to the list, e-mail email@example.com