The first time someone sees TCU RB Ryan Christian line up in the backfield, most people start wondering, "Why is that skinny little kid on the field? He's going to get killed!"
Yet Christian has succeeded again and again for the Horned Frogs. He represents the best of what makes a college student athlete, the kid who should be playing Division II or III football, making his mark on a top 25 team.
For those unfamiliar with the Frogs offensively, they love to run the ball and control the clock. Last year, TCU led the nation in time of possession at over 35 minutes per game and had the No. 12 ranked rushing attack, averaging 220 yards per game.
TCU has used a committee of running backs, with no back getting over 600 yards in a season.
Christian is a local product, coming from the Fort Worth exurb of Aledo. He excelled at RB in high school, rushing for almost 3,000 yards his senior year. In total, he ran for 55 touchdowns in high school and caught scored six more.
At TCU, Ryan looked like he might have a place as a wide receiver. When injuries and other situations depleted the Frogs RB corps, Christian moved back to his familiar role.
Looking like a mere child at his listed height of 5'11" and weight of 188 pounds, Christian demonstrated his tremendous quickness.
While he only saw extremely limited playing time in 2006 as a redshirt freshman, he started off the 2007 season well, coming in against Baylor for injured RB and current Detroit Lion Aaron Brown. He quickly had 40 yards rushing, with 4.4 yards per carry and a touchdown.
Not bad for someone who looks like he should be playing for a high school junior varsity squad.
In the following game against Texas, he rushed 10 times for 41 yards.
Against Air Force the next week, Christian had 106 yards in total offense, including a 25-yard reception.
Since then, Ryan has played mostly as a substitute, having only four career starts. TCU's main backs, Joseph Turner (also returning this season as a senior) and Aaron Brown (now with the Detroit Lions), carried the bulk of the load.
Even so, Ryan has always been there to do his par.
Against Stanford last year in a game that took place in the shadow of Hurricane Ike, Ryan rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for just four yards less than the entire Oregon State team did against Stanford a few weeks earlier.
Against Oklahoma, he caught a 19-yard reception.
Against Utah, he had TCU's only touchdown.
So far, Christian has rushed for six touchdowns and 710 yards, while amassing 465 yards receiving.
Ryan Christian is not big, strong or powerful. He has almost no chance to play on Sunday.
Even so, he is what makes college football great. Ryan tries hard, does everything he's asked to do and does it as one of the smallest guys on the field.
In these days of glamour and hype, it is nice to remember a little guy can still play at a great level when he puts all he can into the position.
Christian will see a significant amount of playing time this year, but he will never be the lead back. Ryan will just take every opportunity he can and give it his all.
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