Penn State Football: Tailback Silas Redd Has His Share of NFL Heroes
Penn State’s Silas Redd has studied the running styles of several great NFL backs through the years.
While growing up in Norwalk, Conn., he idolized Chicago Bears superstar Walter Payton, who died in 1999 when Redd was just 7 years old.
The Nittany Lions talented junior tailback has watched plenty of video of three other Pro Football Hall of Famers as well – Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson.
Redd also is a big fan of Roger Craig, who earned three Super Bowl rings, and Bo Jackson, a Heisman Trophy winner and the first athlete to be named an All-Star in two major pro sports – football and baseball.
A 5-foot-10, 210-pounder, Redd hopes one day to follow in the footsteps of his NFL heroes.
That opportunity could occur after the 2012 season, when he would be eligible to petition the NFL for early entry into the draft.
"It's a thought, because I will be eligible after this season. But let's get through this season first," Redd said recently.
He said he has had a handful of conversations with first-year Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien – the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots – about his NFL chances.
O’Brien’s message to Redd has been simple: He needs to block better and catch the ball better to be a successful pro.
"I'm trying to become a great overall back," Redd said. "I've been working on my hands a lot. I dropped a couple balls last year, so I'm going to try to improve upon that. "The main thing I'm working on is blocking. Coach said most rookie running backs don't know how to block. God willing, if I get a chance to go to the next level, that's something I want to be pretty good at.
"A lot of [blocking] is mental just as much as physical. It's understanding the protections and understanding when you have zone and man, and understanding who has what."
Redd, a New York Giants fan, watched the Super Bowl with great interest in February, given that O’Brien was in charge of quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense.
"I was definitely trying to focus on what they were doing as an offensive unit, especially with the running backs,” Redd said. “I noticed that with [Patriots running back] Danny Woodhead, they were trying to get him out in space because that's where he's best at – in space.
"And I really like that a lot because I feel like they play to each player's strengths."
Redd, the third-strongest player on Penn State’s team, has spent some time this week chatting with former Nittany Lions’ great Ki-Jana Carter. A first-round NFL draft pick as a running back himself, Carter is working the Blue-White Game Saturday in Beaver Stadium as an analyst for the Big Ten Network.
Carter knows all about pro-style offenses such as O’Brien’s, where Redd will get a chance to line up all over the field, including at wide receiver.
Redd said there’s a "great possibility" he might have anywhere from six to eight receptions a game. That’s in sharp contrast to the 13 catches for 67 yards he had in his first two seasons in Happy Valley.
"Not only are [the backs] going to be open a lot, we're going to be serving as an escape route for the quarterback when he's in trouble," he said. "He can dump it right to us.
"Things don't always go your way when you run a play, and you want to be able to get out of a situation and go to your checkdown man."
Everyone already knows that Redd is a workhorse, a tailback with good speed and vision.
He backed up Evan Royster, Penn State’s all-time leading rusher and current Washington Redskins tailback, in 2010, when as a true freshman, Redd managed 437 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
A year ago, in his first season as a starter for the Nittany Lions, Redd rushed for 1,241 yards on 244 carries and scored seven touchdowns. He was named second-team all-Big Ten.
In October, he led all major college running backs in rushing with 703 yards on 133 carries while stringing together five consecutive 100-yard games.
Despite his lofty numbers, Redd was slowed late iast year by a bruised collarbone and hyper-extended right knee. And his practice time has been limited this spring by tendinitis in the same knee.
But . . .
“Silas Redd has had a really good spring,” O’Brien said. “He’s a great kid to be around."
How long Redd will stay around is another question.