ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – For most players, making the jump from NCAA football to the NFL is a significant one.
For Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, playing in front of large crowds against top-level competition is something he’s used to doing.
And doing well.
“I was able to show up in the big games on the big stages and in the NFL, every game is a big game no matter what,” Lacy said. “So if I was able to perform well in those games, you know it should be an indication that I can do the same thing in the NFL.”
In two BCS National Championship Game appearances in back-to-back years as a sophomore and junior, Lacy averaged nearly six yards per attempt, totaling 183 yards on 31 carries.
Alabama won both games, defeating Notre Dame 42-14 this year and shutting out LSU 21-0 in 2012.
Lacy is no stranger to NFL crowds either, as Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium holds more than 100,000 fans, which is more than any of the NFL’s 32 venues.
His college practices also helped prepare him for the NFL as they were led by Nick Saban, who spent two seasons as the Miami Dolphins head coach in addition to six years as an NFL assistant with the Houston Oilers and Cleveland Browns.
“Just his whole coaching philosophy,” Lacy said when asked how Saban’s coaching will help him in the NFL. “I mean, coming in as a freshman, you think it’s hard. All he’s doing is preparing you for days like today and whatever your future may hold.”
Lacy is hoping to be the third consecutive Alabama running back drafted in the first round.
In 2012, Trent Richardson went third overall to the Cleveland Browns and the year before, Mark Ingram was selected 28th by the New Orleans Saints.
All three of those players spent time together on the Alabama roster in 2010, which was Lacy’s freshman season.
“A little bit,” Lacy said of advice he received from his predecessors. “They didn’t tell me how long (the NFL Scouting Combine) was or anything. They’re just like, ‘It’s a good experience to help raise your draft stock and talk to a lot of coaches and a lot of people on the offensive staff.’”
Like Ingram and Richardson, Lacy left for the NFL after his junior season.
Having that type of NFL talent in front of him on the depth chart took a lot of carries off Lacy’s plate as an underclassman. He didn’t top 100 carries in a season until this year when he ran the ball 204 times.
The reduced workload meant that Lacy didn’t take as many hits during his college career as some of the other running backs who spent four years as the top guy.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Lacy said of making the decision to leave school early. “After a while, you can’t take as many licks because as a running back you don’t have that many years.”
For his career with the Crimson Tide, Lacy ran for 2,402 yards on 355 carries with 30 touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry against some of the best defenders in college football.
“Just being able to be a powerful runner if I need to or an agile runner and make people miss,” Lacy said about what made him successful. “With my size, being able to be agile and make people miss, that’s really key.”