INDIANAPOLIS • Timberland High’s Montee Ball ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds Sunday at the NFL scouting combine. Sizzling? No.
But no cause of alarm, either. In fact, it’s just about what most NFL scouts expected from the University of Wisconsin star.
Besides, he’s got some pretty good company when it comes to pedestrian 40 times at the combine. Emmitt Smith ran a 4.7 in the 40 at 5 feet 9, 216 pounds. That caused him to slide to 17th overall in the draft out of the University of Florida.
Critics said at the time: He can’t go 80 yards. To which former Rams general manager Charley Armey would always reply: Sure he can. Just give it to him four times.
Smith, of course, went on to become the NFL’s all-time career rushing leader.
More recently, Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic was clocked in 4.67 seconds at last year’s combine. Morris, playing at the same height and weight as Smith, was a sixth-round draft pick. He rushed for a Washington Redskins franchise record of 1,613 yards in 2012, which is the third-best rookie total in NFL history.
Now comes Ball, who coincidentally is almost identical in size to Smith and Morris at 5-10, 214. No one’s saying Ball will approach those levels of production in the NFL.
Then again, it’s hard to find a more productive college running back. The 2012 Doak Walker Award winner as college football’s top running back, Ball gained 1,850 yards and scored 22 touchdowns for Wisconsin this past season. Along the way, he set the major-college records for most career TDs overall (83).
If anyone legitimately could say just check out the film, it’s Ball, who was projected as a second- or third-round pick entering the combine.
“Accountability, durability, and consistent,” Ball said, when asked to describe his strengths. “I’m extremely consistent. You can count on me when I have the ball in my hands — 924 carries, only two fumbles.”
It’s those 924 carries that may be the biggest concern for NFL teams. That’s a very heavy college workload, and running backs have only so many carries and so many hits in them before their bodies start to break down.