AMES — Last season, a neck injury nearly ended Iowa State running back Shontrelle Johnson’s career.
Sunday, his coach, Paul Rhoads, revealed news of the latest setback for the swift, but hard-luck junior from DeLand, Fla.
“(He) has hurt his (right) knee seriously enough that he will not be available to us,” Rhoads said.
That means Johnson — who missed the final nine games of 2011 — won’t be able to play against Tulsa in the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl.
“(He) probably will have surgery after New Year’s,” Rhoads said.
Johnson rushed for a season-high 120 yards in the 38-23 season-opening win over the Golden Hurricane and averaged 4.4 yards a carry this season.
Now the 5-9, 196-pounder faces an uncertain football future.
“He’s a hard-working son of a gun that really plays with a lot of energy and loves to practice, loves the game,” Cyclone offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in Jack Trice Stadium or if it’s on the practice field.”
Rhoads said Johnson — who has never played in a bowl game — is ready for another challenge.
“You get a big wave of emotions,” Rhoads said. “(He) was crushed (Saturday) and upbeat, if you want to call it that (Sunday). I think what he’s gone through already with the neck has helped his mindset. He knows what he’s got in front of him in terms of rehab and he’ll do a great job with it.”
ISU’s other top tailback James White did not practice Sunday because of taking a recent hit to the head.
More carries will likely fall his way eventually.
“James, obviously as a captain and an older guy, he’s got to step his load up,” Messingham said. “But (third-string) DeVondrick Nealy obviously needs to become a bigger part of our offense and will.”
WHISPERS: Multiple out-of-state media outlets associated Rhoads with Wisconsin’s vacant head coaching position late this week.
He addressed the rumor mill thusly.
“I’ve had no conversations with those people and very happy to be right here at Iowa State,” Rhoads said.
When asked by a reporter if Iowa State fans should feel secure that he will coach the the Cyclones in 2013, he said, "Absolutely."
ALSO OUT: Defensive lineman Nick Kron broke a bone in his foot and will miss the bowl game. Kron had two tackles for loss and a sack this season.
Note: This article was posted late Monday, Dec. 17, but a previous version already ran in print.