HARRISONBURG — Cornell Urquhart didn’t have to look very far for inspiration as a football player.
The JMU senior defensive tackle said he’s always looked up to his father, Cornell Urquhart Sr., who played for Virginia Tech’s football team from 1982-84.
“He’s probably the biggest influence in my life, just because he does so many great things and I see what he’s done to get there,” Urquhart Jr. said. “I’m kind of following in his footsteps just to do what he did because he was successful.”
Urquhart Jr. said that he talks to his father every day and still gets advice from him.
Urquhart Jr. said that his father played at defensive end and wore the No. 94 jersey just like Urquhart Jr. does. Urquhart Jr. said that his father still has film from his playing days that he likes to show him.
“He tries to (show me), but he’s so old they’re like black and white,” Urquhart Jr. said with a laugh. “So you can’t even see those tapes or see whose who.”
Urquhart Jr. came to JMU after a strong high school career at Benedictine College Preparatory in Richmond. He said that selecting JMU as a college was an easy choice for him.
“This is just a great place. As soon as I came here I committed on my visit,” Urquhart Jr. said. “I didn’t even want to go anywhere else because it’s just such a great place academically and athletics wise.”
Urquhart said his first two years weren’t the greatest. He did have one start in the two seasons and had 38 total tackles.
He said everything changed when Mike Houston took over as JMU head coach last year.
“When coach Houston and his staff came that’s when I started to really kind of get in the flow of things, and start to really have a good year,” Urquhart said.
Houston said that Urquhart has progressed a lot since he and his staff took over in January of 2016.
“He was a typical young undeveloped lineman,” Houston said. “And we really challenged him that first spring. I felt like he embraced that. He’s a guy that wants to be good. And he has worked extremely hard almost the last two years in the weight room with (JMU strength and conditioning) coach (John) Williams and with (JMU defensive line) coach (Jeff) Hansen on the field to develop his body.”
The 6-foot-4 Urquhart said that when the current coaching staff arrived he weighed 240 pounds and now he’s at 275. Urquhart said that he enjoys lifting weights and getting stronger.
It’s paid off for Urquhart the last two seasons.
Urquhart started in all 15 games last season and had 37 tackles.
Urquhart said that one of his favorite parts of the game is getting a tackle for a loss or getting a sack. Urquhart said that he also enjoys being able to celebrate with his teammates after making a big play.
“I kind of look at my wrist like, you all know what time it is — it’s that time,” Urquhart said of his favorite celebration move.
The Dukes had plenty to celebrate last season when they won the Football Championship Subdivision title. One of the keys to winning the title was the play of the defense.
This season it’s been more of the same. The Dukes are allowing only 11.4 points and 232.6 yards per game. They are second in FCS in both categories. Urquhart has 28 tackles and two sacks this season.
Urquhart said the key to the Dukes’ success has been the unity of the team.
“Honestly, I think that’s our best aspect as a team is our bond,” Urquhart said. “Because I feel like we’re so tight that we know what each person’s thinking about. And therefore when we do that, we know where (JMU safety) Jordan’s (Brown) supposed to be. Where I’m supposed to be. Where (JMU defensive end) Simeyon’s (Robinson) supposed to be. And then where (JMU defensive end) Andrew’s (Ankrah) supposed to be. And we’re all on the same page. So that’s helped us play really well.”