Colts Hot Prospect: T.J. Rushing
T.J. Rushing has been turning heads as a returns specialist for quite some time at Stanford, but he's also seen plenty of action at the cornerback position -- a lot more than most people realize.
Rushing made 43 game appearances, but the statistics say he's only got 13 starts under his belt. The first number is a much more accurate indicator of his experience than the second one.
"Both of the corners that played with me during my sophomore and junior years are playing in the NFL right now," Rushing explained. "My number of starts is skewed, because all three of us rotated throughout my sophomore and junior year. So when people say, 'Oh, he only started his senior year,' that's really misleading because I have three years of full experience under my belt. And in my freshman year, I was a nickel (back), and played about 40 snaps a game in the Pac-10."
As a cornerback, Rushing can change the momentum of a game. During his career at Stanford he forced four fumbles and picked off four passes.
"Speed, quickness, and the ability to run with any receiver," he said when asked to describe his strengths as a cornerback. "And I'm a willing tackler. I'll definitely come up and hit. That's one of my thrills and joys in life is getting to come up and put a good tackle on someone."
Over the past two seasons, Rushing has earned All-Conference honors as a returns specialist. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns while averaging 28.4 yards per return as a junior and 26.7 as a senior. A straight-line returner, Rushing looks for his gap and then unleashes his speed.
"I can tell where those guys are going to be going and where I should be going pretty quickly," he said. "I think my best attribute is just pure speed. So once I make a decision to make a move, if I think I've got a half a step on the guy, I don't feel he's going to make the tackle. All I need is a little crease and we can make it happen."
Rushing was introduced to the role of punt returner quite suddenly a few games into his senior year at Stanford. His coach decided the team needed to make a change at the position and looked no further than his star kickoff returner to step up to help the team.
"Our coach just sort of threw that out there on a Sunday practice saying, 'T.J., you're returning punts from now on.' And I was like, 'Wow...okay, coach, I'll try to figure it out.'
"The first time I went back there to return a punt, I was pretty nervous. But I think my first return was for over 20 yards, so after that the nerves died down a bit," he said.
If scouts weren't convinced by Rushing's game film, he certainly increased his fan club by the end of his Pro Day. Despite wet, soggy conditions he went out and ran an impressive 4.37 forty. Rushing says that he typically runs a mid- to high- 4.2 forty on the same surface in good conditions.
"I think I built up their attention with the vertical jump. That started to build the momentum. And then after that, then the broad jump. But when I did the bench press (20 reps), a lot of them seemed really interested because they were able to see that I'm also a really strong guy. And that just built up to them wanting to see me run, because they knew that if I was fast, that was the deal-sealer. I think it was all a good combination," he said.
T.J. Rushing made his statement, and teams wanted to see more. So he's already visited the Colts and held personal workouts with a few other teams. He's likely to be a busy guy in between now and draft day.
ColtPower Insiders can read our Q&A with T.J. Rushing where he talks about his visit with the Colts, who was showing interest in him at his Pro Day and more!
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