By Steven Weldon
Running backs possess a strange shelf life as football players. While most of them follow the blueprint of 7-8 seasons in the NFL and a slight drop off in talent, others such as Frank Gore or Adrian Peterson go strong for 13+ seasons. The same can be said for most NFL players, but largely the running back position is a revolving door for teams unless they have a superstar on their hands.
This dynamic presents a unique opportunity to younger running backs trying to make the league out of college. The idea is that the sooner you start in the NFL, the better chance you have of sticking if you're talented.
Some backs don't take advantage of that opportunity. It's the dreaded "returning to school for unfinished business" motive. The move is an emotional play, one that ideally helps the college team at the behest of the potential contract and security of the NFL. It happens to all college athletes, but a significant number come from football.
A YouTube Creator known as "FlemLo Raps" is a former college football player that has a significant amount of videos that detail where certain former NFL or college stars are in their careers at this point. Some you've seen on the big stage, others who seemingly appeared out of nowhere on the college scene and disappeared. A common theme in his videos happens as follows; a star player collects big statistics and the team wins a lot but does not win a championship. The player then decides he has "unfinished business" with a year left of eligibility. He comes back, has a reasonable season, but it hurts his NFL Draft stock. The player finds himself drafted low, and struggles to make an NFL roster.
I certainly hope that doesn't end up happening to former college star Bryce Love. Love recently finished his senior season at Stanford after posting Heisman Trophy-potential winning statistics his junior season. Had Love come out for the 2018 NFL draft, he may have been a first or second-round pick. He did not. Love returned to Stanford for his senior season, but played far fewer games due to nagging injuries. His final season he amassed 739 yards rushing and had six rushing touchdowns, a considerable step down from his junior season numbers of 2,118 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.
His season and potential football career was derailed by a torn ACL injury in the final PAC-12 game of the 2018 season against the Cal Bears. Love would enter the NFL Draft in 2019, but was selected in the fourth round by the Redskins. Ahead of him on the depth chart is Derrius Guice, drafted in 2018 in the second round. Guice, like Love, is coming off of a torn ACL sustained in the first preseason game of last season. The difference in their situation, however, is duly noted.
Derrius Guice decided to forgo his senior season at Lousiana State University to pursue his NFL career, and was rewarded with a 4.54 million dollar contract for being selected in the second round.
Bryce Love had the same injury but in college. He was not already guaranteed money.
Let's hope things work out for Bryce Love.
I'm so ready for the college football season. Follow me on twitter, @Airweldon for my thoughts.