Brandon Yosha, sophomore running back for Lehigh University’s football team, traded in palm trees for steel stacks, 80,000 fans for 10,000 and a chance to play with college football’s big boys when he transferred from University of Miami to Lehigh this past summer.
After a one-year stop at Miami, Yosha found his way to Bethlehem and introduced himself with a touchdown on the Mountain Hawks’ first drive of the season in Saturday’s game against James Madison University.
When Yosha was at Cathedral High School outside of Carmel, Indiana his mailbox was overflowing with invitations from universities across the country. SEC, ACC, and Big 10 programs all wanted to utilize the skills of the 6-foot, 180-pound speedster in their backfield.
Yosha was on par with current NFL players such as Marcus Lattimore, Lache Seastruck and Andre Williams. At the time Yosha was ranked as the No. 7 running back in the nation according to Rivals.com.
Yet with a twist of fate, Yosha watched as Lattimore got drafted out of the University of South Carolina, Seastruck scored double-digit touchdowns at Baylor University and Boston College’s Williams attend last year’s Heisman Ceremony all while recovering to get back to his pre-surgery self. In a blue-chip showcase in Tampa Bay in 2010, Yosha tore his ACL in his right knee forcing him to sit out his entire junior season and rewrite his path to Division I football.
After a successful senior season at Cathedral, Yosha got a call from former Miami Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch. After not being able to offer a full-ride, Yosha ended up walking-on to the Hurricanes’ roster.
Playing in six games his freshman season in Corral Gables, mostly on special teams, Yosha’s highlight was when he recorded a tackle against North Carolina State. Just as things were looking up, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars swept up his biggest advocate and mentor, Coach Fisch. Yosha wanted out of Miami and Lehigh did not hesitate to pursue the running back.
“To be honest, I had no clue what Lehigh was,” Yosha said. “Even the second time through the recruiting process, I didn’t know anything about Lehigh until the former running back coach here, Coach Ryan, started recruiting me.”
When Yosha filed to transfer from Miami, there was a lot of red tape induced by the NCAA that he had to consider when finding his next backfield. One thing remained certain, however — Yosha had done enough sitting out. He wanted to play.
“ACC schools I didn’t even consider because I wanted to be able to play immediately,” Yosha said. “There were a few schools like Northern Illinois, a few MAC schools I was considering and then Hawaii. Sitting out a year wasn’t appealing to me at all – I wanted to play as soon as possible. Lehigh was one of the first schools to recruit me and now I’m here.”
Yosha is coming from a program that has 46 players in the NFL that once called Coral Gables home, an NFL record. Lehigh has two: Baltimore Ravens lineman Will Rackley (’12) and current free agent and ex-New York Jet and Miami Dolphin, Ryan Spadola (’13). The notoriety of his former program has kept the running back humbled in a new style of play.
“The speed of the game is a lot slower coming to this level and I can see a lot of things better,” Yosha said in regards to the ACC to Patriot League transition. “There is still talented guys I’m playing against and they’re guys I see on the field at Lehigh who can contribute to the University of Miami in my opinion.”
Even though Lehigh doesn’t have the luxury of calling NFL greats like Michael Irving, Ray Lewis and Jim Kelly alumni, the NFL dream still lingers for Yosha.
“Seeing Will Rackley and ‘Dola go to the NFL is just more the motivation for me as a student-athlete here at Lehigh,” Yosha said.
Even though Yosha scored a touchdown in his first-ever drive as a Hawk, perspective remains important for the running back. The coveted Rivals list is behind him and now he has goals in conjunction with getting to the NFL, like doing well on his accounting test next week and setting himself up for “life after football.”
For Yosha, the “what if” game that tormented him going through rehab is now in the past.
“What if’s are a terrible thing and in my opinion everything happens for a reason. I’m here at Lehigh and I’m happy,” Yosha said. “This is where I think I was destined to be. If it weren’t for those injuries, who knows where I would have been – maybe an SEC school or still at Miami. For whatever reason, I’m on a different path that I had to take and I’m making the most of my opportunities here at Lehigh.”