The term “undersized” can be misleading when it comes to evaluating NFL talent. Today’s football barometer is heavily weighed upon who is the biggest, the fastest and the strongest at their respected position. Yet every season, it has become more common that a player will breakout to debunk the theory of small stature and perform well above his size.
Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols plans on being the next man to prove that size isn’t everything in the NFL.
“I love that the odds are against me,” McNichols said. “I’ve got that dog inside of me that the media never sees.” “They can’t see the work I’m putting in and I take that mindset into every game, every practice, every week.”
At 5’9, 212 pounds, McNichols produced eye-popping production during his last two seasons at Boise St. In 2015, the 21-year-old rushed for 1,337 yards, 20 and added 51 receptions for 640 yards and six touchdowns. McNichols closed the book on his college career by finishing his final season rushing for 1,709 yards, 23 touchdowns along with 37 catches 474 yards and four more trips to the end-zone.
Before McNichols filled up the stat sheet, he got an opportunity to learn from another former Bronco during his red-shirt year. Running back Jay Ajayi, now a current member of the Miami Dolphins, recorded his best season during his final year as a Bronco in 2014. At a time when McNichols was just getting a taste of college football action, the lessons he received from his former teammate have continued to mold and prepare the young running back for his pro career.
“Jay took me under his wing.” Said McNichols. “He helped me understand the ins and outs of the position, how to prepare, how to practice. I learned from him every day and I still talk with him at least three times per week.”
McNichols running style is both smooth and sudden. One of his best attributes is his vision. Capable of quickly dissecting coverage in from of him, McNichols parlays those skills with anticipation and change of direction. Displaying 4.49 speed, the Boise St. product accelerates through the line of scrimmage with burst and explosion. As a pass catcher, McNichols is third in the 2017 class in career reception yards/gm behind only Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey (32.6) and Oklahoma RB, Joe Mixon (35.8). Whether coming out of the backfield or split out as a receiver, the young running back shows terrific hands and body control without ever having to slow down.
Another asset that McNichols brings to his game is his pass blocking capability. Despite being a smaller back, McNichols is not afraid of contact and with his compact frame, he has the ability to get low and chip to disrupt a pass rush.
RB Jeremy McNichols (Boise St, 5'9", 212lbs). This chip in pass protection actually got me out of my seat. Dang, little man! pic.twitter.com/cH38tlJKut— My Colts Account (@MyColtsAccount) January 4, 2017
While he dominated at the college level, McNichols understands that the NFL is a different animal. Outside of his physical attributes, there are intangibles that he possesses that will allow him to succeed in the pros. “My mental toughness.” Said McNichols regarding his football training. “I’m durable, I can play through the whole season. I’m a three-down running back” Durability and toughness are two words that should be associated with McNichols as he turned in a year and a half’s worth of his college stats with a torn labrum in his shoulder. In February, McNichols participated in every drill at the combine aside from the bench press as he had opted for surgery during the off-season. “I feel better, I’ve still been training and doing everything I need to be doing to be ready when camp begins.”
No matter which team selects McNichols in next week’s draft. He believes that he has the ability to succeed at the highest level no matter where he lands. When speaking about the possibility of being selected by the Chargers, McNichols was very complimentary about new head coach Anthony Lynn and his coaching demeanor. “I like his (Lynn’s) approach. McNichols said. I like the system he’s got there with Melvin (Gordon) and with his coaching background I can tell he knows how to prepare his players.”
Even with five running backs currently on the roster, coach Lynn has made it known that he is looking to pair another running back with current starter Melvin Gordon. Bringing in a player like McNichols could bring a dynamic skillet to an already crowded Chargers backfield.
McNichols is on the brink of achieving his NFL dream. Ready to follow a similar path that was forged by players like Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, Doug Martin, and Danny Woodhead, all of which defied the criticisms of their size. For McNichols, his vision of an NFL career does not simply reside on the impact he will make on the football field, but the presence he will bring when he steps off of it.
“They will be getting a guy that wants to win, a guy who wants to make everyone around them better. I want to be explosive, I want to contribute on special teams, I want to be a complete player and I want to wear that “C” on my jersey someday.”