Toston: From Backup to All-Big 12

Oklahoma State fans were expecting to add another 1,000-yard rusher to the history books in 2009 and that running back to then begin preparing for a future in the NFL. But everyone was expecting that person to be junior Kendall Hunter. Instead, Keith Toston went from understudy to All-Big 12 running back, and is now projected as a possible NFL draft choice following an outstanding senior season.

Toston made just five starts – out of a possible 36 games – during his first three years at Oklahoma State, backing up Dantrell Savage and then Hunter. But the 6-foot, 205-pound senior from Angleton, Texas was ready, willing and able to step in when Hunter suffered a foot injury early in the season, and he's proven that he's more than your average backup.

Toston has rushed for 1,177 yards this season, including 1,048 in his 10 games as a starter this season after Hunter suffered the injury against Houston (an average of 104.8 yards per game). He has rushed for 2,684 yards during his career, which ranks him ninth entering Oklahoma State's showdown with Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

While Toston has seen his stock improve in the eyes of NFL scouts this season his focus right now is on helping the 2009 Cowboys become just the fourth team in school history to win 10 games.

"It would mean a lot to us, especially the senior players," said Toston. "This senior class wants to leave here as one of the four teams that had 10 wins in school history. That would be big for us. It would be really big to go out and get a win in our last game."

The 21st-ranked Cowboys are 9-3 entering the bowl game against the Rebels, 8-4. A win in the Cotton Bowl would allow the 2009 team to reach the 10-win plateau, equaling the numbers of wins set by Oklahoma State teams in 1984, 1987 and 1988.

Toston has averaged nearly 20 carries a game after Hunter went down with the injury in the second game of the season against Houston, and had a career-high 30 rushing attempts for 172 yards against Colorado on Nov. 19. But Hunter is nearly 100 percent for the first time since suffering the injury on Sept. 12, and is likely to get more playing time against Ole Miss.

Toston, however, will be prepared if called upon. "As a running back, everybody wants that (to run for a lot of yards). It just depends on how the game flows. They have a big defense that reminds me a little bit of Georgia, and have a lot of big guys on the D-line, and have guys in the secondary that can run and tackle. It's going to be a challenge, maybe one of the top challenges we've seen this year. We're just going to have to bring our A-game and compete," he said.

Toston knows how to compete, and would like nothing better than a chance to continue to do so while playing in the NFL. He is projected as a mid- to late-round selection by several NFL Draft web sites, The OSU senior is projected as a fifth-round NFL pick by NFLdraftscout.com, and NFLdraftdog.com lists him as a seventh-rounder.

What message did Toston send to NFL general managers and scouts with his performance this season? "That I want to be there. That I feel that I can play if I'm given the chance," he says. "That's all I ask for is a chance."

Toston will get his chance, and the 22-year-old running back will make the most of it – just like he did when he was give the chance this season. Don't bet against Toston.

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