2014 NFL Combine: Towson RB West leads the small school hopefuls
Over 330 prospects were invited to the 2014 NFL Combine and 37 of those players hail from a non-FBS level program, including Towson running back Terrance West, who might be the first "small school" prospect off the board
Every year there are lesser known "small school" prospects that arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine and make it a point to make sure everyone knows their name. Players from the FCS, Division II and Division III levels usually aren't household names, but many are well known in the scouting community.
More than 330 prospects were invited to the 2014 NFL Combine and 37 of those players hail from a non-FBS level program, including Towson running back Terrance West, who might be the first small school prospect off the board. And maybe in the first 100 picks.
"Some of the greatest guys to play the NFL game came from small schools, like Jerry Rice," West said. "The competition doesn't change; the rules of the game don't change. Football is football, no matter the level."
West has a loaded backstory -- he struggled to qualify academically out of high school, left Fork Union Military Academy prematurely because he was too far from home, and worked at a shoe store while trying to walk on at Maryland or Clemson before ultimately deciding to walk on at nearby Towson.
"Amazing what I came from and what I overcame," West said in response to all the adversity thrown his way. "A lot of people would have given up and turned in their cleats, I overcame all the obstacles thrown at me."
West was productive during his first two seasons at Towson, sharing backfield duties, but his production skyrocketed in 2013, finishing with a FCS-record 2,509 rushing yards and 41 rushing scores. Although rare for non-FBS juniors to leave early for the NFL Draft, West understandably decided to make the jump.
Now he wants to make another jump -- up draft boards with a positive combine experience.
"This is a chance to show that I can play on any level," West said. "I want to show guys I can do everything: catch the ball, grind, quick cuts, good footwork. ... I'm quick, great vision, always make someone miss, always falling forward."
West is built well for the NFL game and delivers hits with natural power and initial momentum, staying light on his feet and finishing strong. Although he doesn't have elite athletic traits, he is reminiscent of Joique Bell and fits a similar type of role where he can offer a nice power and quickness compliment.
West also has some extra motivation with a 5-year old son, Brendan, at home, saying he doesn't want his son to "go through" what he did. On more than one occasion, West has mentioned four words that seem to have become his personal motto: "Stay humble and hungry."
Already viewed as a solid middle-round option, West will boost his profile even higher with a positive combine performance. And in a running back class with a lot of different options, West offers a unique flavor that could land him on Day 2 of draft weekend.
10 other non-FBS prospects trying to boost their NFL grade:
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
One of the top senior quarterbacks in this draft class, Garoppolo has a very quick process from his feet to his delivery and will look to build upon the momentum he started at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
QB Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
Designated as a "Throwing Quarterback," Vaughan was a three-year starter for the Buffs and set several school records in college and now will have his chance to compete with the other top quarterbacks in this draft class.
RB Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
A former top high school recruit, Crowell was dismissed from Georgia after a number of off-field issues, but he has stayed clean at Alabama State and the talent is still there for him to be a bargain in the middle rounds.
WR Matt Hazel, Coast Carolina
Although he's not the type of prospect who will test off-the-charts, Hazel runs polished, decisive routes and is a determined hands-catcher who set numerous records at the college level. A strong showing in Indianapolis will only help his cause.
OG Billy Turner, North Dakota State
A college left tackle, Turner projects best inside where he doesn't have to cover as large of an area and he can use his nasty demeanor and natural punch to control defenders and should show off his quick feet at the combine.
OG Dakota Dozier, Furman
Another college left tackle, Dozier had a positive showing at the East-West Shrine Game and will reserve a spot for himself on the draft's second day if he shows the same athleticism in workouts that he displays on the football field.
DE/TE Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
The son of a Super Bowl champion, Webster was a four-year starter on the basketball court before moving to the football field the past few seasons. Still very raw, the athleticism is intriguing, whether he ends up on offense or defense.
DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
Reid, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Mike Catapano, has NFL size and quickness and showed at the Senior Bowl that he can match up with some of the top defensive tackles in this draft class.
LB Tyler Starr, South Dakota
The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Starr moves very well on the football field, showing range and pursuit speed to make plays at both sidelines. He is definitely a candidate to be the top "small school" player drafted on the defensive side of the ball.
CB Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
Tall, long corners have grown in popularity as teams search for the next Richard Sherman and Desir certainly has the size part down at 6-1 and arms stretching to almost 33 inches. If he runs well and looks fluid in drills, Desir's name will continue to climb.
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