NFLE star should get ticket to training camp

The last time the 49ers got serious about a running back running wild in NFL Europe, the whole thing blew up in their faces. The 1999 Lawrence Phillips experiment was an unmitigated disaster, but now Jamal Robertson is opening some eyes overseas, and he may just get a look with the Niners this summer, since he already owns a spot on their roster.

Robertson has been one of the Niners' biggest surprises in NFL Europe. Entering Week 5 games - the midpoint of the NFLE schedule - Robertson already is a star. Playing for the Rhein Fire, he ranks second in the league in rushing yards (404), rushing touchdowns (three) and total yards from scrimmage (473). He also has displayed his durability with a league-high 78 carries, and is making the biggest impact of the 10 players currently allocated by the Niners overseas.

After another flashy performance by Robertson last week in a 31-3 win over Barcelona - when Robertson gained 124 yards rushing, scoring on runs of three and 11 yards, and also had three receptions for 52 yards - the Niners are taking notice.

The knock on Robertson coming out of college last year was the level of his competition. The sturdy 5-foot-10, 210-pounder set 38 school records at Ohio Northern, but that doesn't mean much to NFL types when you do it at the Division III level. Robertson went undrafted even though he was a two-time first-team All-American who rushed for 4,169 yards, had 5,388 all-purpose yards and scored 56 touchdowns.

Those numbers are looking more legitimate now with the success Robertson is having in Europe. Robertson's problem - as far as his hopes to make it with Niners this season - is the position he plays. The Niners are stocked at running back like at no other position, and Robertson would be behind starter Garrison Hearst, super-sub Kevan Barlow and flashy Jonas Lewis - and possibly even others - on the depth chart at tailback if he's invited to Stockton in July.

If Robertson keeps this up over the final six weeks of the season, that should earn him a ticket to training camp. You never know what can happen there - or if a spot might open that could be filled with his skills. And if Robertson makes it to training camp, that could open the door for him in the NFL. Probably not with the Niners, but since the team has five exhibition games, he could get an opportunity to showcase his skills for an organization that is more needy of a running back.

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