Short but Strong: 7 Undersized College Football Players Who Deliver Big
Far too often we think of football in terms of big, strong behemoths slamming into one another with bone-crushing force.
But it's often the little guy that rewrites the history books.
Barry Sanders, for instance, was one of the greatest running backs to play the game. He stood a scant 5'8" while rushing for 2,850 yards in 1988 for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Sanders proved that it doesn't take a mountain of a man to make a mountain of a difference in a football game, and here are seven other college football players in the game today that make a big difference despite their diminutive stature.
Honorable Mention: Jayson Carter, Rice
(Photo: Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle)
Rice made headlines (for once) last season when freshman walk-on Jayson Carter was added to the roster.
What's so amazing about Carter? Well, for one, he stands just 4'9".
No, that's not a typo; he's four feet, nine inches tall.
Consider this: former LSU pint-sized tailback Trindon Holliday was a scant 5'5"; which is a full eight inches taller than Carter.
Carter hasn't—and likely won't—be making huge impacts in the FBS world. But the fact that someone is just 4'9" and can even approach playing at that level is at least worth a mention.
Robbie Rouse, Fresno State
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At just 5'7", Robbie Rouse is probably short compared to a lot of high school running backs.
But Rouse not only plays at the top level of college football, he's been pretty successful at it, too.
Last season, Rouse contributed 1,544 rushing yards (leading the WAC) and 13 touchdowns for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Maybe the Bulldogs should give Rouse the ball more often, as Fresno State finished 2011 with a 4-9 (3-4) record.
Mike Edwards, Hawai'i
When you think of Hawai'i, you think of giant, beefy Hawaiians or Samoans and their crushing hits.
Mike Edwards bucks that trend, standing 5'10" and coming in at just 180 pounds.
This Cleveland, Ohio native found a football home on O'ahu, where he specializes in returning kickoffs for the Warriors.
And he does it quite well. In 2011, Edwards had 1,086 return yards, good enough for sixth in the FBS.
As Hawai'i moves to the MWC for 2012, the Warriors will need every one of those yards—and then some—if they hope to be competitive in their new conference home.
John White, Utah
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Standing just 5'8" and tipping the scales at just 186 pounds in Utah running back John White, IV.
But just because White is smaller than the average guy walking down the street doesn't mean he can't outrun 98 percent of them.
Last season, White rushed for 1,520 yards, second in the Pac-12. He also contributed 15 rushing touchdowns, as well as two additional receiving scores.
White returns for his senior season with the Utes, where he'll try to translate his small-statured success into Utah's first winning conference season in the Pac-12 (Utah was 4-5 last season in its first Pac-12 year).
Ralph David Abernathy, Cincinnati
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A brief look down the Cincinnati roster shows not only one of the great college football names—Ralph David Abernathy, IV—but it also lists Abernathy's height at just 5'6".
This 160-pound Atlanta, Georgia native was probably branded too small by most FBS programs, and passed over in favor of some 6'2" behemoth.
But rather than finding a small program to play for somewhere in the south, Abernathy found a new home at Cincinnati, where he excelled at returning kicks during his freshman season in 2011.
Abernathy accumulated 1,034 return yards (tops in the Big East, seventh in the FBS) on 39 attempts—one of which went for a touchdown.
While returning kicks may not be the most glorious task, this soon-to-be-sophomore's 79.5 yards per game would be welcomed by any head coach around the nation. And the fact that Abernathy puts up such lofty numbers despite his small frame makes it even more impressive.
Raheem Mostert, Purdue
(Photo: Brent Drinkut / Lafayette (IN) Journal & Courier)
Purdue's Raheem Mostert made waves last season as a freshman, returning kicks for the Boilermakers.
Mostert led the FBS in kickoff return average (33.48). Mostert is also a relatively small 5'11".
Maybe his smaller stature makes him difficult for the coverage team to spot as he goes running past.
Michael Dyer, Arkansas State
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Despite standing 5'9", Michael Dyer has been contributing in a huge way to the Auburn Tigers' offense.
Last season, Dyer produced 10 touchdowns with 1,242 rushing yards—second in the SEC with the Auburn Tigers.
Dyer was dismissed from Auburn in January, and has been added to the roster at Arkansas State, where he will likely need to sit out the 2012 season (unless the NCAA grants his petition for a waiver) before suiting up in a game for the Red Wolves.
But when he does finally make it back onto the field, you can bet that Dyer can and will be chasing down every Sun Belt rushing record in existence.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
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Two-thirds of men in American stand between 5'7" and 6'1".
Wisconsin's Montee Ball sits right in the midst of that average height range, standing 5'11". But his average stature hasn't stopped him from some decidedly above average production on the football field.
Last season, Ball led the FBS in rushing, posting 1,923 yards on the ground while contributing a Big Ten record 33 rushing touchdowns.
There have been a lot of great running backs to come out of the run-heavy Big Ten over the years. Montee Ball can undoubtedly be considered one of the very best.
And he's probably no bigger than most of the guys you play flag football with on the weekends.