C.J. Spiller of Clemson Widely Projected to be First Running Back Selected in 2010 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – C.J. Spiller doesn't worry about things beyond his control.
Spiller, a running back from Clemson University, said he knows there are observers who question whether he is tall enough, and analysts who question his weight.
Is he big enough to play in the NFL?
Spiller, projected by many to be the first running back selected in the April 22-24 2010 NFL Draft – and widely projected to be a Top 15-to-20 selection – said because he can't control what observers observe, or what analysts say, that's a question about which he opts to not worry.
"Everyone can voice their own opinion," Spiller said during the recent NFL Scouting Combine, which was held at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis in late February.
"The only thing I can do is just go out there and perform. I can't worry about that. I know I play the game with a lot of passion, and I'm going to go out there and compete at the highest level, no matter my size or my height.
"I know what I can do as a football player."
If some scouts question the size of Spiller (5-feet-11, 196 pounds), few if any observers or analysts have any such concerns about his speed.
Because Spiller is just, plain fast.
Spiller, widely considered one of the fastest backs in college football last season, proved that to be the case at the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds. That was fast enough that he opted against running again at Clemson's Pro Day on March 11, telling reers, "There was really no need to run it.
"Why waste the energy?" he said. "Everybody knows that I'm fast."
His combine time was the second-fastest time among running backs in Indianapolis at the combine, and fast enough to draw comparisons to another play-making, speedy running back:
Reggie Bush, a Heisman Trophy winner at Southern California now with New Orleans.
Such comparisons, he said, are one more thing he can't control.
"Everybody's going to compare me to whoever," he said. "Like I tell people all the time, 'Every running back is different.' I can't go to an organization and try to be Reggie Bush. It's just not going to happen. The only thing I can do is just try to go be C.J. Spiller.
"It's great to be in that company. Reggie Bush has done a phenomenal job while he's been in the NFL. Even to be mentioned in that company is a humbling experience for me."
Spiller, who graduated from Clemson in three and a half years, was more than fast in college.
He was very, productive.
He rushed for 1,212 yards as a senior and had 503 receiving yards, becoming the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to finish with more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in one season. He also finished his career as the first player in college football history to rush for more than 3,000 yards and have more than 2,000 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 yards receiving and 500 yards in punt returns.
The second-place finisher in the 100-meter dash at the ACC meet as junior, he also set an NCAA record with seven career kick returns for touchdowns, including four this past season.
He not only was a first-team All-ACC selection as a senior, he was the first Clemson offensive player named ACC Player of the Year since Steve Fuller in 1978.
"I've just been blessed by the Man upstairs," Spiller said. "You've got to be a man to get back there on
those punt returns. You've got to have faith in your teammates and you've got to have faith that they're going to hold up. And kickoff returns is all about reading the blocks and then just exploding through the hole. Hopefully, you can give your offense good field position and hopefully it'll turn into a big play. I take a whole lot of pride in playing on those special teams, especially kickoff return and punt return."
Like Bush, Spiller said he hopes to return kicks and punts on a long-term basis in the NFL.
"That's something I love to do," he said. "Special teams can win or lose a game for you. That's something I enjoy doing. I think I'm pretty good at doing it. Hopefully, I can help an organization by doing it so teams can't just key on me as being a slot guy or just running the ball from the backfield, and I can go in and help that team out in any way."
And while because of his size there are those who wonder if Spiller can run consistently on a long-term basis inside the tackles, he said he has no such concerns.
"That's pretty much what we did at Clemson," he said. "We ran inside, did a lot of zone blocking inside, did a lot of power downhill running. I think by me doing that, hopefully I showed people I can also be an inside
runner as well as a good outside runner. . . . It doesn't bother me at all. I don't get caught up into what people say. Everyone is going to voice their own opinion. The only thing I do is go out there and try to help my team win and just enjoy competing at the highest level. I don't sit home and worry about what people like about my durability or what my style is. I just try to go out there and have fun.
"I went back (as a senior) and I proved that I can carry the ball 20 to 22 times a game and still last. I think I get stronger as the game goes on and get a better feel. But that's not my decision to make. That's going to be up to the coaches, what they think and how they use me."
However he is used, and whatever is or isn't beyond his control, Spiller said just because he is assured a chance in the NFL doesn't mean he is done working toward his goal.
"As a little kid, it's something that you always dreamed about, playing in the NFL," he said. "You just do whatever it takes to get to that level. Now that I'm here, I haven't stopped working, haven't gotten complacent, continue to work hard because I have not yet arrived at the potential I want to be at."
BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP RUNNING BACKS
The running back class in the 2010 NFL Draft is strikingly similar to many running back classes in recent season – with a big-time play-maker at the top of the class but without many potential first-round selections thereafter. C.J. Spiller of Clemson is a back in the mold of former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush – a versatile returner with special, game-changing speed. While Spiller is widely considered one of the Top 10 talents in the draft class, fewer and fewer running backs in recent seasons have gone in the Top 10 and he could slide into the middle of the first round. The other running back generally projected to be a first-round possibility is Ryan Mathews, an early-entry junior from Fresno State who led the NCAA in rushing this past season with 161.6 yards per game.
ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Joseph Addai, fifth NFL season, Louisiana State; Mike Hart, third NFL season, Michigan; Chad Simpson, third NFL season, Morgan State; Donald Brown, second NFL season, Connecticut; Devin Moore, first NFL season, Wyoming.
THE LAST FIVE
The last five running backs drafted by the Colts . . .
2009: Donald Brown, first round, Connecticut.
2008: Mike Hart, sixth round, Michigan.
2006: Joseph Addai, first round, Louisiana State.
2005: Anthony Davis, seventh round, Wisconsin.
2002: Brian Allen, sixth round, Stanford.
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 running backs expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .
Andre Anderson, Tulane, 5-11, 205
Joique Bell, Wayne State (MI), 5-11, 220
Jahvid Best*, California, 5-10, 199
LeGarrette Blount, Oregon, 6-1, 241
Chris Brown, Oklahoma, 5-11, 210
Andre Dixon, Connecticut, 6-1, 205
Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State, 6-1, 233
Jonathan Dwyer*, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 229
Toby Gerhart, Stanford, 6-0, 231
Montario Hardesty, Tennessee, 6-0, 225
Deji Karim, Southern Illinois, 5-9, 209
Ryan Mathews*, Fresno State, 6-0, 218
Lonyae Miller, Fresno State, 6-0, 221
Joe McKnight*, Southern Cal, 6-0, 198
Pat Paschall, North Dakota State, 6-0, 209
Charles Scott, LSU, 6-0, 238
C.J. Spiller*, Clemson, 5-11, 196
James Starks, Buffalo, 6-2, 218
Ben Tate, Auburn, 5-11, 220
Keith Toston, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 213
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.