By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
The all-time all-purpose yards holder in the NFL is not a 6’5” stud wide receiver. The record-holder is not a 6’2” all-purpose athlete who resembles a track-star in how fast he is.
It turns out the holder of this record is a 5’6” running back with a 4.5 40-time.
New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, the former Kansas State running back and Olathe North product, finished the 2011 season with 2,696 all-purpose yards.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the record may be a little cheapened this year due to the offensive explosion and due to rulebook hampering the defenses around the league.
However, that doesn’t dilute the point that Sproles is not the expected holder of a record like this.
Let New Orleans quarterback Dree Brees explain that to you in a quote from his post-game interview last weekend.
“I'm not sure there's anyone like him,” Brees said. “He walks in the room and you're stunned at his size and stature. You just say, 'This guy doesn't belong.' But he does. He more than belongs. No situation is too big for 'Sprolesy.'”
Remembering how small Sproles was as he dominated the Missouri Tigers and other Big 12 competition reminds me of some of our best football players in the community.
Kansas City, Kan., produces small football players and basketball players in terms of height. That’s not an unfair criticism of the city, but the reputation that smallness takes away from the player is an unfair one.
The same thing that prevented Sproles from being recruited by the University of Kansas – let alone better football programs – often prevents KCK kids from receiving a look.
Some of the same “concerns” about Sproles’ size can be expressed about Piper’s Paul Jones, Schlagle’s De’Ante Ambler and even guys like J’veyon Browning, who has few inches on both of those players.
Now, I’m not comparing Ambler, Jones or Browning to Sproles. Sproles' accomplishments at the high school level were incredible and as much as I love watching those three guys, I can’t justify comparing them to Sproles right now.
But at the same time, those three guys have been scarred because of their size just like Sproles was.
Sproles’ success should inspire Browning, Ambler and Jones with the fact that size is easy to over-come with a great work ethic and dedication. With the spread offense and Wildcat Offense continuing to dominate college football and slowly creeping into the NFL, guys of all sizes can fit a piece to the puzzle.
This is no longer a game where you lineup 320-pound hogs on the offensive line and run 40 times a game. Well, that’s assuming you’re not the Denver Broncos.
Most importantly, however, Sproles’ success should be a message to college recruiters that talent can be found in players of all sizes.
Perhaps Browning and Jones are not the typical 22-25 carry a game running backs, but they are welcomed on my team any day. You telling me a guy who had nearly 2,000 yards on the year can't play because he's too small? Or, an athlete who can score anytime he touches the ball isn't worthy?
It’s time for college coaches to understand that the obsessive focus on size creates a situation where many talented players are overlooked.