The Journal Gazette
Thursday, March 02, 2017 10:02 pm

IU running back still fighting for attention

Kyle Rowland | For The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio’s Division VI is not the land of 4- and 5-star high school football recruits.

Former Indiana running back Devine Redding discovered that during his junior year at tiny Mineral Ridge in northeast Ohio. The small but speedy Redding rushed for 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns, but it garnered little interest because of the school’s size.

He finally got noticed when he excelled at Indiana’s summer camp, which resulted in an offer from the Hoosiers. Despite leading powerhouse Glenville to the Division II state championship game his senior season – and attending Ohio State and Alabama’s camps – IU remained Redding’s lone offer. So he accepted.

After three years and 2,252 yards, Redding opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

"I’m excited," said Redding, who’s participating in the NFL scouting combine this week. "Not everyone gets this chance, and I’m going to take full advantage of it. I just want to focus on being me and controlling what I can control."

Redding became the first Indiana running back since Vaughn Dunbar in 1990 and 1991 to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. The 5-foot-10 Redding did so by being a patient, shifty runner.

In his final two seasons, Redding had one 200-yard game, seven 100-yard outings, and two games that ended with 99 yards. 

Redding, who’s been training in Florida, was a mainstay in the Indiana football facility throughout his career – lifting weights, eating right and working with athletic trainers. He never missed a practice in his three years in Bloomington.

"I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve stayed levelheaded and stayed committed to what I wanted to do," Redding said. "I went out and I did it. I never complained, never sat out. I always played with a chip on my shoulder and expected the best from myself.

"Preparation is key. That’s why Jordan Howard and Tevin Coleman were able to excel when they got to the NFL, because of how they prepared. We can thank coach (Deland) McCullough for that and how he got us ready."

Redding’s relationship with McCullough dates to the coach’s high school career, when he was teammates with Redding’s father, Desmond, in Youngstown, Ohio. Fast forward years later and McCullough has become an NFL-producing machine.

Former Hoosiers Coleman and Howard have thrived in the NFL. Coleman is a key playmaker of the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive juggernaut and Howard rushed for 1,313 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie for the Chicago Bears. He joined Gale Sayers as the only Bears rookie running backs to be named to the Pro Bowl.

"Redding has been arguably the most consistent of the recent Hoosier NFL running back prospects," said Eric Galko, a draft analyst for Sporting News. "But he doesn’t have the same type of NFL build the prior Indiana runners had. He doesn’t offer great finishing burst or power through contact at the second level and his wiggle through traffic is only all right. He has some burst when there’s space to run, but he struggled mightily against top competition."

A stacked running back class that includes the likes of Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, D’Onta Foreman, and Christian McCaffrey awaits, but Redding isn’t shying away. He believes his name will be mentioned in the same breath as Coleman and Howard.

"Versatility," Redding said, emphasizing the ability. "I can be used anywhere. I can catch passes out of the backfield, I can run between the tackles; I can run outside. I can do a lot of things. That’s what teams are looking for to be an all-purpose back." 

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