Michigan scored 6 elite New Jersey rookies in 2016: where are they now?
Much noise was made in 2016 when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh scored six elite New Jersey rookies, catapulting his recruiting class into one of the best in the country. The class was led by Paramus Catholic defensive lineman Rashan Gary, the nation’s No.1 consensus player, and Kareem Walker, once the nation’s highest-ranked running back. But, how did the 12-hour recruit migration to Ann Arbor play out in the long run? And where are the former NJ high school football stars now?
Rashan Gary, DL, Catholic Paramus
The All-Big Ten winner was the nation’s No.1 rookie out of high school and, in general, lived up to the hype. After three years at Michigan, where he racked up 119 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and a forced fumble, Gary was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the No.12 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. and has become an important fixture for Green Bay as an edge defender and passer.
Gary has 58 tackles, seven sacks, eight tackles for loss, 18 quarterback hits, one slap assist and two fumble recoveries three games in his third season at Green Bay.
Kareem Walker, RB, DePaul (Wayne, New Jersey)
Walker is still running. It is a story of redemption and determination. A former five-star rookie who originally picked Ohio State before being overthrown by Harbaugh, Walker ended up at junior college in Fort Scott, Kansas to bounce back after two years in Ann Arbor. He averaged 3.2 yards per carry in the ranks of JUCO and occasionally presented the gifts that made him a household name in 2016, earning him a spot on the Mississippi state roster.
Walker received his bachelor’s degree in 2020 and is a returning post-graduate in South Alabama where he ran for 208 yards, four rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. Walker was named Panini America’s Sun Belt Player of the Week on September 20, after three touchdowns and a record-breaking performance at school in a 28-21 victory over Alcorn State.
Ahmir Mitchell, WR, Cedar Creek (Egg Harbor City, NJ)
A four-star from Cedar Creek in 2016, Mitchell chose to leave Michigan after being suspended by Jim Harbaugh for “breaking team rules”, transferring to Rutgers before the start of his freshman year, and after leaving. enrolled in Michigan early, in the spring. Mitchell tore up his ACL during a Rutgers practice in April 2017 and never made an impact on the roster.
Mitchell then joined Walker at Fort Scott following another team rule violation, this time at Rutgers. Mitchell had some success at Fort Scott, but it is not known where or if he continued his playing career thereafter.
Brad hawkins, DB, Camden
Looks like Hawkins has been in Ann Arbor forever, after a semester at Suffield (Conn.) Academy where he started his college career after a delay in getting NCAA Clearinghouse approval kept him from register on time. But he’s been a stalwart of the Wolverines since joining.
Hawkins traded in his No.20 jersey for the iconic No.2 ahead of the 2021 season and is an assistant captain. He has nine tackles, four broken assists, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss in his fifth year. Hawkins has 127 total tackles (79 solo), five tackles for loss, eight broken assists and that forced fumble during his five-year career that is still ongoing. A letterer for four years, Hawkins has played 45 career games, including 20 in free safety.
Michael Dwumfour, DL, DePaul
A 6-2, 290-pounder, Dwumfour was a rotation player in Michigan, and when on pace, looked like one of their most explosive linemen. It erupted in sophomore, softening Maurice Hurst’s loss to the NFL, eventually racking up 33 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and an interception, over the course of four years at Ann Arbor.
Dwumfour returned home to Rutgers as a graduate transfer in 2020, totaling 19 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a half-sack and two slaps. He did a good job along the line of scrimmage, some of which is not on the stats sheet, but helped the team. Dwumfour spent this preseason with the Jets, but was called off before the deadline as each NFL team reduced their roster to 85 players. Dwumfour authorized the ballots and became a member of the New York casualty reserve, which does not count in the active list.
An undrafted free agent from Rutgers, Dwumfour has always had to face a tough climb to be part of the 13-lineman squad. However, he found success in his lone preseason action, racking up a half-sack and fumble recovery before succumbing to injury in a win over the Giants.
Ron johnson, DL, Camden
Johnson was a four-star rookie and a member of the NJ.com Top 50. A 6-4, 235 pounds with a quick first step, he was named Scout Team Player of the Week in Michigan three times, but never saw significant playing time, forcing him to be transferred. Johnson signed up to Rutgers in June 2019 but did not graduate from Michigan on time, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.
Instead, he transferred to Towson where he was limited by injury and appeared in three games as a reserve in 2019. Johnson, who was due to arrive at Rutgers with two years of eligibility remaining, was immediately eligible to play in the he Baltimore school has since gone down to the FCS level. The only way he could have played Rutgers would have been if he had graduated and as a graduate transfer.
Thank you for relying on us to provide journalism you can trust. Consider supporting us with a subscription.
Todderick Hunt can be reached at [email protected].