A Look Back:  BJ Askew

A Look Back: BJ Askew

April 14, 2017

(image via MLive)

(image via Zimbio)

If you’re anything like me, you watched with glee this year as Michigan lined up for repeated 3rd and short situations, bunched up the offensive linemen, and ran a quick hand-off to Khalid Hill who almost invariably picked up the yards Michigan needed.  There was a welcome predictability in this routine.  It surprised me just how difficult the play proved to stop, even when everyone in the stadium saw it coming. We’ve seen plenty of Coach Harbaugh’s offensive sets attempt to trick the opposition, but when the team needed a yard (or sometimes less), Hill would get the rock.

When thinking about which Michigan player to take a look back at this week, I decided to go with someone who I would have loved to see perform in Jim Harbaugh’s version of Michigan’s offense.  Now there are lots of players, especially some of the recent quarterbacks, who it is difficult to imagine their careers under Harbaugh.  What heights would a player like Devin Gardner have reached under the tutelage of our QB-whisperer of a coach?  It is difficult to tell.  It is easier to predict, however, the success that former fullback BJ Askew would enjoy as a member of the 2017 Wolverines.


Before BJ Askew came to Michigan, he was a standout athlete for Colerain High School (Cincinnati).  He won letters in three sports (football, basketball, and track).  During his senior year, he led the Cardinals to a 10-0 record before losing to powerhouse St. Xavier of Cincinnati in the playoffs.  Askew formed a two-headed monster of a high school backfield with teammate Darryl Robinson.  The duo combined for 2,441 yards and 26 touchdowns, and Askew accounted for roughly half of both of those totals, and averaged 9.2 yards per carry.  He was inducted into the Colerain High School Hall of Fame in 2009.  

Check out this video (excuse the music) to see exactly what Askew looked like as a high school back. He is #34 in red.  His power is obvious, and as the pitch back in a triple-option offense, he usually has a pretty good head of steam when meeting up with linebackers.  Colerain plays against some of the best competition in Ohio.  

Askew bulked up from 210 pounds in high school to 235 by the time he was a junior at Michigan.  This added weight helped him transition from running back to fullback, and made him an intimidating presence in Michigan’s backfield.  During his junior year he led the team in rushing with 831 yards.  As a senior, he split time a bit more with junior Chris Perry, and saw some of his counting stats dip (568 yards), but averaged a strong 5.2 yards per carry.  The best game of Askew’s career came in the 2002 blowout (49-3) of Michigan State, in which he tallied 149 yards and two touchdowns.  Thanks to youtube guru WolverineHistorian, we have some tape from that game.  You can click here to watch two back-to-back runs that highlight Askew’s vision and power.  

No retrospective on Askew’s career is complete without the mention of the dimension he added to the passing game.  Askew caught 78 passes during his career for Michigan (and averaged over 9 yards per catch), and while I couldn’t find stats regarding dropped balls, I think it is safe to say that he had some of the surest hands on the team during those years.  

From a fan’s perspective, Askew seemed like a jack-of-all-trades, but did lack some of the game-breaking talent of a few of his contemporaries.  Both Chris Perry and Anthony Thomas created more highlight reel plays than Askew, but neither enjoyed as much longevity at the next level as Askew.  Askew’s toughness and leadership was not lost on his teammates or the college football press; he was named the MVP of the 2002 Michigan Wolverines and an All-American.

His well rounded game lent itself well to playing fullback at the NFL level, and he was drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Jets.  He would go on to start in 35 games over 8 seasons in the NFL, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to one of the (then) largest contracts for a fullback, at $8.6 million.  Askew and teammate Victor Hobson were the subject of this New York Jets rookies feature in which Askew gave some insight into his ambition on a the football field, saying, “I don’t just want to be on a football team, I want to play.”


Askew’s skill set seems like a perfect fit for the offensive direction of the 2017 Wolverines team, and it would be fun to watch and NFL-caliber fullback block, run, and catch for Michigan.  


  1. Comments: 359
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Apr 14, 2017 at 8:58 AM

    From this fans perspective the mention of Askew, Perry and the A-Train in the same breath behind a decent OL, and complimented with a passing game… I think Harbaugh could work with that.

    Think about with Smith gone in 2017 it wouldn’t surprise me to see Askew and Khalid Hill in the backfield at the same time especially on third down. In 2018 we need Askew at FB.

  2. Comments: 1863
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Apr 14, 2017 at 10:13 AM

    Another great trip down memory lane
    Thanks, and Go Blue!

  3. Comments: 4
    Eastside Maize
    Apr 14, 2017 at 12:49 PM

    Askew’s hands would’ve been utilized, as Harbaugh loves the screen game. He would make our belly dive crazy.

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