Running Back Jhalen Bien-Aime on Breaking the All-Time Rushing Record

The truly great runners of the game glow and that is what Bien-Aime has done during his time at Pace.

Jhalen Bien-Aime is now the all-time leader in rushing yards, but he is more comfortable discussing the hard work that led to the accomplishment.

Jhalen Bien-Aime is now the all-time leader in rushing yards, but he is more comfortable discussing the hard work that led to the accomplishment.

Pace University Athletics

Pace University Athletics

Jhalen Bien-Aime is now the all-time leader in rushing yards, but he is more comfortable discussing the hard work that led to the accomplishment.

Justis Nieves, Sports Writer

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Oct. 13 was a day in history for Pace Athletics. During an overtime victory against the Bentley Falcons, running back Jhalen Bien-Aime broke Pace’s all-time rushing record. The redshirt senior rushed for 210 yards in the game, and thus amassed 2,066 career yards on the ground, crushing the previous record of 1,873. 

The fifth-year student added 37 more yards to the record in the Setters’ game this past Saturday against LIU Post.

But as great as it had to feel to break the record, Bien-Aime is more focused on how his presence and work can continue to help change the culture for Setters. 

“Breaking a record was never my role, it was more so to try and change the culture,” Bien-Aime began. “Obviously, we had a bad history here so my number one goal was always to try and change the culture and get things moving in the right direction. For me, that means way more than any record, the fact that we are now heading in the right direction and I can look around and say that we’ve changed the culture now. It’s a completely different atmosphere for us. That’s the most exciting thing to me, it means way more than any type of personal record.”

Bien-Aime has been the bell-cow running back for the Setters in the past few years. His skills have been polished over time and the seeds of success were planted at a young age.

“I always remember watching [football] as a kid, but it was my mom that really pushed me into playing, signing me up for pop warner,” Bien-Aime said, reflecting back.

He also went on to describe what it meant for him to play at Pace, which he says has “been a journey.” 

“The way the program started out and along with the facilities, were a lot lower than they are now,” he said. “It’s been a steady climb every year and it’s been good to see.”

The payoff for that steady climb came in 2017, where the running back had his best season to date. That was the year Bien-Aime burst onto the scene and cemented hi legacy in a Pace uniform.

“That was my first opportunity to get full season playing running back,” he said. “Last season was an opportunity for me to play a full season. Just going into the season I was so hungry for it, I wanted to be able to finish out the season. I always had that constant reminder that any play could be my last, I felt, that was the biggest thing for me. In the offseason, the preparation going into it was the hardest I ever worked in my life. I feel like it really was the product of hard work.” 

Bien-Aime may now be the all-time leading rusher by over 250 yards, but the record may have been broken multiple games before had it not been injuries that set him back. The running back spoke about his foot injury back in 2016 that sidelined him for the rest of that year and the impact it had on him.

“It was definitely tough,” he began. “I had never really been hurt before then. [Being injured] was of the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me realize how much I love the game and it made me work so much harder when I came back. It was the first time football had ever been taken from me, so in a way I was always took it for granted so that made me never take the game for granted again. I always realize that any play could be my last one, so any play that is my last, I want to go out as hard as I possibly can.”

Bien-Aime playing every snap as if it’s his last one is easily noticeable, as it always takes more than one tackler to bring the down the slippery, but powerful back. He is a paragon of fighting for every inch.

However, he is more than just a runner. To the casual fan, running back may look like a fairly easy position to play. Simply run the ball behind the the giant men blocking for you and try not to get tackled. Of course, there is way more to it, including pass protection and reading the defense. 

“People don’t realize as a running back you’re getting hit every single play full speed no matter what,” he said. “In pass protection, a lot of times [running backs] are responsible for the linebackers who are just about always bigger than us. Those guys are coming full speed down hill and you have to bite down on your mouth piece and take a hit sometimes to protect your quarterback. If that [quarterback] doesn’t feel safe with you back there protecting him, your reps are going to get cut, you’re not going to be on the field in passing situations. Even if there isn’t a blitz, you have to help out if another team has a particularly good defensive lineman, you want to key in on him and take a shot. It’s more so just about having respect for the guys around you. That’s what it really comes down to, it’s putting someone else before you.”

As one of the oldest and most experienced member of the Setters football team, Bien-Aime talked about his role as a leader.  

“It’s about putting team before yourself. I never wanted to be the guy that’s talking all the time and be vocal, I try to lead by example. But now I’m in that position where I do have to speak up. Someone has to say things and sometimes it has to be me. I just try to embrace it and take it as ‘this is what we need to do to win. This is who I have to be in order for us to win’, even if I feel uncomfortable sometimes, and I don’t want to speak up. If we want to win and if I want to build the culture that I want to be here, I just have to do it. It’s really just about putting the team before yourself.”

With 809 yards on the ground, Bien-Aime is also nearing his own record for most rushing yards in one season, which he broke last year with 1,084 yards. 

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