Mikel LeShoure came by nothing the easy way.
According to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune, he was born in the Dwight Correctional Center, where his mother, Jacqueline “Jazz” LeShoure, was serving her second sentence for drug related offenses.
At the age of three, LeShoure’s father, Michael, was incarcerated on similar drug charges. Mikel was largely raised by aunts and uncles until his mother’s release.
Jacquilene beat her addiction to drugs and alcohol and went on to be model citizen. She worked multiple jobs to save enough money to travel to her son’s football games.
LeShoure was a 2006 consensus All State running back at Centennial High School in Champaign, Illinois. He made only one official recruiting visit, choosing to stay close to his family and his father who was serving his time in a nearby penitentiary.
Illini head coach Ron Zook couldn’t believe his good fortune. Here was a kid who had matured long before his time. LeShoure would be groomed to take over for Rashard Mendenhall.
LeShoure saw little action behind Illini stud RB Rashard Mendenhall in 2007. In the meanwhile, his father was paroled. Mikel made it a point to mend the family fences. His dad kicked the habit and has been clean ever since.
Things went sideways for LeShoure in 2008. He suffered a broken jaw in an altercation over a cell phone. Nevertheless, LeShoure had a productive sophomore season.
In 2009, LeShoure was suspended one game after a failed drug test.
No, nothing came easy to LeShoure.
After the 2009 season, he determined that he simply had to buckle down. He put those peccadilloes behind him and became a model student-athlete.
The thing that stands out for me is that in a career where he had 424 carries, LeShoure never fumbled. That’s insane!
Leshoure would go on to seize the single season Illini rushing record, beating out current Pittsburgh Steeler, Rashard Mendenhall.
I broke down two game films on LeShoure. The first was a 24-13 loss to Ohio State at home. LeShoure ran 19 times for 80 yards against one of the stingiest defenses in the nation—a Buckeyes defense that schemed LeShoure.
LeShoure is a one stutter-step and a one cut RB who uses his head and shoulders to create a gap. He is extremely strong at the point of attack and broke every arm tackle that the Buckeyes tried.
LeShoure doesn’t have great speed, but a strong lower body allows him to get to the second level explosively. Ball security is outstanding, and stripping the ball looked like a fruitless exercise.
When he bounces outside, LeShoure demonstrates great lateral movement and impeccable footwork.
When taking on DBs, LeShoure likes to attack them, rather than evade them. He simply lowers his head and shoulders, and punishes them.
Out of the backfield, LeShoure is an extremely reliable receiver who moves the chains. He runs very disciplined routes and is fearless in the middle of the field. He uses a nice stiff arm to gain the extra yard.
Sometimes indecisive in the backfield, LeShoure will occasionally lose yards.
The next film was the Texas Bowl. Illinois was going up against Baylor.
The film study of the loss to OSU was born out. LeShoure scored three TDs on 184 rushing yards.
LeShoure gained most of those yards on simple draw plays. One went 68 yards to the house.
Now, I was particularly interested in LeShoure’s blocking and blitz pickups. In the OSU game, LeShoure picked up seven blitzes and missed only one. I actually pity a blitzing safety. LeShoure stops any forward momentum and delivers them to the turf with malice aforethought.
Great footwork usually puts him in an athletic position when blocking, but he plays a little too high. This costs him leverage against bigger linemen and LBs. He has a tendency towards redirecting larger opponents as opposed to using his lower body strength to squarely take them on.
Against Baylor’s relatively poor pass rush, the same tendencies were present, but he was able to match up better against them physically.
I view LeShoure as a blocker who can be (and will be) coached up with respect to his technique. His career may depend on it.
After his 2010 junior season, LeShoure declared for the NFL Draft with the blessings of family, and the Illini coaching staff. LeShoure wants to take care of his parents, and he really had nothing more to prove in college.
LeShoure was given a consensus late 1st round grade, but the late QB draft rush pushed him to the top of the second round.
When LeShoure dropped to pick No. 57, Martin Mayhew pulled the trigger on a trade up with (who else) Seattle. The cost was negligible for a player with LeShoure’s value.
Only two players rushed for more yards in 2010 and neither of them was named Mark Ingram.
The Lions will run a lot of designed draw plays for LeShoure—even out of tandem sets with Jahvid Best. Delays should be extremely effective as well.
Thinking of the multitude of options that LeShoure brings to a potent Lions offense makes me smile.
Think of Best in motion to the outside. That strong safety has a read and must respect Best’s motion. Stafford has a “hot” read where he can pitch to Best or go to the draw/delay to LeShoure.
Or, LeShoure can lead block to the edge where he has the strength to take on OLBs in a 3-4 defense, but can blow up a DB in a 4-3 defense.
One thing for certain is that LeShoure will wear down a defense. And, like the life that he’s had, nothing will come easy.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.