University of Wyoming Cowboys
Los Angeles, California
Dorsey High School
The former prep running back with blazing speed that made him a renowned track star during his days at Los Angeles' Dorsey High School has been on cruise control to the National Football League ever since stepping into the starting lineup the second half of his sophomore season at Wyoming. Based on the countless cornerbacks he has raced past during his college career, the split end has never stopped running. Now, he is hoping to take his fleet feet and step on to an NFL field in 2014.
It has been a long "road trip" for the Los Angeles native, who ventured more than 1,000 miles away from home to play college football. When he first made the decision to Laramie four years ago, he constantly doubted why he pursued a career as a Cowboy.
Herron did not sign on with Wyoming until two days before 2010 August camp was about to commence. He not only had to take a crash course in the playbook and quickly grasp the offensive scheme, but for a city kid, it was quite a culture shock adapting from living in a city with millions to going to a town that generously lists its population at 30,000.
As each day passed and the plays looked more and more complicated, Herron was considering dropping out, heading home and enrolling at one of the local colleges back in the Los Angeles area. "It was real tough getting adjusted to the new lifestyle," Herron said. "It was a whole new life out there in Wyoming. It was cold as heck. The city felt very isolated. I was real homesick coming from LA."
Looking back at that decision to leave home, Herron realizes it was all for the best and he is just weeks away from hearing his name called on draft day and beginning the next phase of his football life. He just hopes that next phase ends as well as the one he started back in August 2010.
As a child, Herron was raised by his father's first cousin, who he refers to as Aunt Kathy. Because his father was imprisoned and his mother wasn't a consistent presence, he was fortunate to have Kathy Hales in his life. Herron also learned a valuable lesson at a young age: Nothing is given. With hope that one day he'd be able to play football professionally, Herron spent early mornings and late nights in high school with position coach Jeff Johnson. It was on that field where he molded himself into being one of the most polished prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft.
"He came to one of my high school games at Dorsey and he saw that I had the potential," Herron said. "He started working with me and taught me how to separate myself from the competition. I tried to perfect my footwork. He helped me a lot and made me become a good receiver." Herron, who is 5-foot-9, 193 pounds, uses his speed and quickness to be an efficient receiver. While lengthy cornerbacks pressed Herron in coverage during Senior Bowl week, he made them pay with quick-twitch double moves.
"The plays that we ran at Wyoming were a lot different than the plays we ran at the Senior Bowl," Herron said. "I knew I had some NFL route-running skills, but I showed some separation off the jam, too. I think I proved a lot that week." His play certainly caught the eyes of league scouts and team personnel, but he didn't surprise his former strength and conditioning coach Firdose Khan.
"When I first met him I knew he had amazing potential," said Khan, who spent four years with Herron at Wyoming. "He has speed and all the athleticism you could want. He needed a positive influence and someone who would go to work with him. He's a worker. From there we built a bond. I could see it in his eyes. There's a lot of people who talk, but I could tell he really wanted to be great."
Herron would typically spend Friday nights with quarterback Brett Smith, who is also eligible for the 2014 draft. They would work with Khan in the half-acre gym looking to get better. The more time he spent working on his craft, the more familiar he became with the unacquainted sights of the small town. Herron knew he was at the right place at the right time and he chose to capitalize on the opportunity.
"He's going to be very productive because he has the mental part down," Khan said. "Showing up on time, being at meetings, football is all he has. He'd be damned if he'd let someone or something take that from him. His work ethic is unmatched."
Despite running the 40-yard dash at 4.48 seconds and delivering a scorching 6.84 clocking in the three-cone drill, along with executing a 10'-5" broad jump, Herron believes he can continue to improve on all areas of his game with some proper fundamentals.
While he looks back at his time in Laramie, he wouldn't have it any other way. The adversity humbled him, which has fueled him to be where he is today. "I just stayed and hoped for the best," Herron said. "I wanted to leave, but I'm glad it didn't because it paid off in the end."
At Dorsey High School, Herron lettered in football as a junior and senior, competing as a running back and wide receiver, but it was not until his final year that he saw extensive action. In 2009, he helped guide his team to a 9-4 record and an appearance in the semifinals of the state playoffs. He finished second on the squad with 24 catches for 600 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 15 carries for 171 yards and three scores on the ground. His efforts earned him first team all-city and all-league honors.
Herron also lettered as a sprinter in track and field his final two years. As a senior, he qualified for the state meet in four events, after helping win city titles in the 4-x-400-meter
(3:18.34) and 4-x-100-meter relays (41.01). As a junior, his best performances during the outdoor season produced a 10.73 clocking in the 100 meters and 21.93 seconds in the 200 meters. He owned personal bests of 20.99 seconds in the 200 meters and 10.50 in the 100 meters. In the classroom, Herron volunteered as a peer mediator.
His late arrival at Wyoming left the true freshman auditioning for playing time in 2010. The coaches tried him as a tailback, slot receiver and at split end, but he saw his most extensive action toting the pigskin out of the backfield, generating 235 yards on 40 carries, the third-best rushing total on the team. He also caught a half-dozen screen passes for 57 yards while appearing in a total of 10 games before a concussion vs. Nevada-Las Vegas kept him out of the season finale vs. Colorado State.
Herron earned the slot receiver position for the final seven games on the 2011 schedule and the switch from the backfield saw the youngster haul in 43 passes, the second-best total on the squad. He scored three times and gained 379 aerial yards and also picked up 53 yards on eight carries.
Having increased his bulk to 187 pounds, Herron would start all eight games he appeared in as a slot receiver in 2012. He suffered a shin injury in the season opener vs. Texas that would sideline him for four of the Cowboys' next five games, but when he returned to action, he finished fourth on the team with 31 receptions for 657 yards and eight touch-downs. He was one of just three major college players with a minimum of 30 catches to average 20 yards a reception in 2012 (21.19), joining Tavares King of Georgia (22.62 ypc; 42 for 950) and Titus Davis of Central Michigan (20.00 ypc; 43 for 860).
As a senior, Herron enjoyed a banner season, receiving All-American and All-Mountain West Conference recognition. With no injury issues to block his path, he recorded a career-high 72 receptions, marking the eighth time that the Cowboys featured a player with at least 70 catches in a season. In fact, it was the first time in school annals that two players reached that level in the same campaign (Dominic Rufran had 75). Herron amassed 937 yards and produced nine touchdowns.
Herron's final year was duly recognized as he received an invitation to play in the prestigious 2014 Senior Bowl, where he was matched vs. the elite cornerbacks in college football. Most team personnel left the week-long practices very impressed with the Wyoming prospect, as they considered him to have been the most consistent of the wide-outs in attendance.
While perhaps best known for his straight-line speed, Herron also impressed scouts with his stout frame, competitiveness and willingness to extend for the contested grab. He made the catch of the day early in a mid-week practice, soaring high to snatch a high, hard pass from Clemson quarterback Tahj Boyd along the left sideline.
Herron started 27-of-42 games at Wyoming, catching 152 passes for 2,030 yards (13.36 ypc) and 20 touchdowns…Carried 54 times for 310 yards (5.74 ypc) and gained 31 yards on three kickoff returns…Also recorded three solo tackles.