Who is this guy? Stanford RB Toby Gerhart
NFL teams know big-time college production doesn't necessarily mean a player will be a great pro. For this prospect, the weeks left before the draft will be spent answering big questions about his identity.
SN's War Room rates Stanford RB Toby Gerhart as a second-round pick.Playmaking tailback or run-of-the-mill fullback?
It's not a statement about race and ability. It's a statement of fact: There hasn't been a white tailback of significance in the NFL in nearly a quarter-century.
So here is Toby Gerhart, Stanford's bruising running back with more than enough speed and athleticism—and three years of impressive college game tape—to change the way we think of the position.
"I'm not trying to be the poster child for the white running back," Gerhart says. "But the reality is, you just don't see it."
The last time a white tailback was taken in the first round of the NFL draft was in 1974, when Penn State Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti was selected by the Los Angeles Rams. The last white player to rush for 1,000 yards was Craig James with the New England Patriots in 1985.
And the last time NFL scouts debated a 6-foot-3, 235-pound white tailback with 4.42 speed in the 40? How about never?
"He's not a plugger," says UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, an assistant with the Baltimore Ravens before returning to his alma mater two years ago. "He'll change a lot of minds once he gets the ball in his hands."
At this point, Gerhart is used to the doubters. When he broke the California high school career rushing record, he'd hear skepticism from other players and fans. When he was listed as a fullback by most recruiting services, when the heavyweights in the Pac-10 passed on him , when those same teams first felt Gerhart coming through the hole, he heard the same things.
"I'd hear, 'You're not bad for a white guy,'" Gerhart says. "That doesn't bother me, but there's more to me than just that."
You want more? Here's a guy who rushed for a school-record 1,871 yards and nation-leading 28 touchdowns last year while taking a 21-hour course load in management, science and engineering. He took two of his finals—he has his degree—in Orlando while participating in a college football awards banquet.
In the last two seasons, he rushed for more than 3,000 yards despite the fact everyone in the stadium knew where the offense was going.
He also started the last three years in center field for the Stanford baseball team—note to NFL scouts: You have to be able to run to play center field—and led the Cardinal to the 2008 College World Series. He would've been a high pick in the MLB amateur draft had he decided to continue playing baseball.
"He's wired with gifts from God," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh says. "It would be foolish for anyone to think he can't play that position."
Who is this guy? ND WR Golden Tate
War Room: Toby Gerhart scouting report
Mock draft: Gerhart No. 51 overall
.If John Riggins can do it ...
It's difficult to find a comparison for Toby Gerhart because, after all, it has been 25 years since a white tailback starred in the NFL. But Gerhart most resembles a modern-day John Riggins—he's a 230-pounder with deceptive speed, the power to plow over defenders and the bulk to absorb the punishment.
Former Redskins offensive lineman Mark May says: "Everyone makes the comparison to John Riggins. But why? Because he's a big back and runs downhill and he's Caucasian? Why not Gerald Riggs or George Rogers or Jerome Bettis? (But) John had a lot of natural speed in addition to his physical ability, much like what Toby has. If this were 1982, Toby would be a first-round pick because everyone in the NFL copies success. If Toby gets with the right team who wants to run some one-back (schemes), he'll have a very good career in the NFL."
An NFL scout breaks down Gerhart's game.
What's to like: He's a physical, powerful running back who runs very well between the tackles. He gets to the hole quickly. He's ready to come into the league and play early. He has better athleticism than a lot of people give him credit for. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he's very good in pass protection.
What scares me: He's kind of a one-speed runner. The other thing I don't know about him is his genuine interest in football. Is he one of those guys who says, "You know, I was drafted in the second round; I can go make more money in baseball"?
Final verdict: Early second round.
—As told to Dennis Dillon
This story first appeared in the March 15 edition of Sporting News magazine. If you are not receiving the magazine, subscribe today, or pick up a copy, available at most Barnes & Noble, Borders and Hudson Retail outlets.