NFL Looks At Running Back's Whiteness

PALO ALTO, Calif. – If you’ve seen Toby Gerhart carry the football, you’re well aware that the former Stanford halfback and Heisman Trophy runner-up is about as subtle as Iron Man. It’s no surprise, then, that as the NFL draft approaches, the player one AFC front-office executive described as “a bowling ball with butter knives” is hell-bent on obliterating the perception that he lacks the athleticism to succeed in the pros.

“I’m just a running back who tries to do what he can to win games and score touchdowns, but people have their opinions, and it’s kind of frustrating,” Gerhart said earlier this month between bites of pizza. “People say, ‘He’s slow,’ or ‘He’s not going to be able to break tackles at the next level.’ In college I went up against players like [USC’s] Brian Cushing(notes) and Clay Matthews(notes) – guys who ended up making the Pro Bowl [as NFL rookies] – and I ran through their tackles. It’s too bad people look at you all weird because of a stereotype.”

[snip]

“One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back,” Gerhart says. “They asked if it made me feel entitled, or like I felt I was a poster child for white running backs. I said, ‘No, I’m just out there playing ball. I don’t think about that.’ I didn’t really know what to say.”

One longtime NFL scout insisted that Gerhart’s skin color will likely prevent the Pac-10’s offensive player of the year from being drafted in Thursday’s first round.

“He’ll be a great second-round pickup for somebody, but I guarantee you if he was the exact same guy – but he was black – he’d go in the first round for sure,” the scout said. “You could make a case that he’s a Steven Jackson-type – doesn’t have blazing speed but he’s strong and powerful and versatile.”

*sigh* Okay race fanatics...sort this one out and get back to me.