Name: Austin Ekeler
College: Western State (Colorado)
NFL games played: 0
Games played for the Chargers: 0
Fun fact: Ekeler becomes the second player from his High School (Eaton High) currently on an NFL Roster - the first is former Charger Mitch Unrein.
At 5'9, 195 lbs, Austin Ekeler doesn't have the size teams look for in a modern NFL RB. With a vertical leap of 40.5 inches, a 40-yard dash of 4.43 seconds and a broad jump of 10 feet 8 inches, Ekeler has numbers that would put any modern NFL RB to shame. If he'd had those numbers at the combine, he'd have been the fourth fastest RB, with the third highest broad jump and the best vertical jump. Those are elite numbers.
So, why was Ekeler an UDFA? Well, he played football at something called a Western State, which doesn't help. They're a D2 school out of Colorado, and the only tape there is on Ekeler is in a game against the Colorado School of Mines. He put up 316 yards and 5 TDs that day.
Ekeler put up superb numbers throughout his entire career at Western State. In his Sophomore year, Ekeler set team records for both rushing yards (1,676) and All-Purpose yards (2,903). He followed that up by leading the entirety of D2 in 2015 with 203.9 All-Purpose yards per game, and in his 2016 Senior season, Ekeler had the 5th most rushing yards in the whole of D2.
Good numbers, but not good enough to overcome playing against the guy who sells you your morning coffee, and so Ekeler slipped through the cracks, falling as an UDFA, and Ekeler is definitely someone who feels he has a point to prove. "I'm pissed off. I felt that I was overlooked coming out of high school, which I am now thankful for. It sparked a fire in me, and from there on I set out to prove that I have what it takes to play at the highest level. Western State Colorado University was the only team that believed in my ability to play running back, and that is all I needed."
The Chargers didn't replace Danny Woodhead in Free Agency and don't really have a whole lot of proven talent behind Melvin Gordon. They do have a potential long term replacement for Woodhead in Ekeler, however - according to Ekeler himself, a Chargers scout told him not once but twice that his game reminded the scout a lot of Woodhead. It’s possible that they bought Ekeler in with a view to being that pass catching back, but it's important to remember that he's an UDFA, buried at the bottom of the depth chart at a position that the Chargers have a lot of bodies at.
If Ekeler does manage to crack the roster, his hard work will likely have something to do with it. According to Ekeler in an interview before the draft, he should have been drafted because "I’m addicted to the process. The workouts, practice, film, the team, that’s what I live for. I couldn’t imagine life without football and I am very thankful that I am getting this opportunity to continue my career."
A business major who's set to complete his degree next Spring, Ekeler interned at Noble Energy in Summer 2016 and had a potential job offer there. Considering Ekeler was just a college student, being offered a job at a company ranked #703 on the Fortune 1000 must have been a hard prospect to turn down. However, Ekeler's supervisor was a big football fan and told Ekeler to follow his dreams, because a career would be waiting for him later on.
Sage advise, and advice that Ekeler must be glad he decided to take. Football may or may not work out for Ekeler, but he's been given the opportunity. For Ekeler, who's been consistently overlooked his entire life, an opportunity is all that he ever wanted.