It’s not uncommon to find a diamond in the rough at a small school. As a matter of fact, it happens more than most top universities and colleges would like to acknowledge. Recruiting and identifying talent is what the top teams in the land depend on, and when a talented player slips through the cracks and emerges at a small school, those top teams have to look at themselves in the mirror and wonder, “what if?”
That “what if” can be found at Division II Northwest Missouri State in RB Xavier Omon.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Omon – who’s been one of the most productive players in college football over the last four years — became the first player in NCAA Division II history to rush for over 1,500 yards in four straight seasons. And he is only the second player in Division II history to rush for over 7,000 yards in his career, finishing with 7,073.
Omon hurdles over several Valdosta State defenders.
He completed his senior season with 370 carries for a virtual reality-like 2,337 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Despite his historic career at NWMS, Omon always believed that he would play Division 1 ball. As a youth growing up in Beatrice, Nebraska, playing for the Cornhuskers was what he wanted to do. But those plans didn’t pan out.
"Coming out of high school, I was sure that I would be a Division I player," Omon said. “I thought I would end up at Nebraska. The coaches at my high school didn't do a lot to help me get to a Division I school, and that fell through."
When his plans to enroll at a Division 1 school didn’t materialize, Omon decided to sign with NWMS and play at the Division II level. But it didn’t start off the way he anticipated. Omon thought he would play right away, but Bearcats head coach Mel Tjeerdsma decided to redshirt him and give him the opportunity to mature and get stronger.
“I think he struggled a little bit with the redshirt thing, like most freshmen do," Tjeerdsma said. "He always felt like he should have been somewhere else on the Division I level. But that's not uncommon with a lot of kids, especially the better recruits."
“He has matured so much as a person,” Tjeerdsma continued. “To me, he's playing for all the right reasons. He's having fun. He's playing for the team. It's been a great transformation from when he was a freshman.”
Omon is a well-built ballcarrier with good explosion and vision. He runs low to the ground and is strong between the tackles. He moves well laterally and can get around the end. He allows his blockers to set up in front of him, finds the running lanes and is shifty in the open field. He runs with great balance, puts his shoulder into defenders and falls forward when tackled. He flashes good hands and is a weapon out of the backfield.
Although he set many records at NWMS, Omon has a lot of tread on his body and has accumulated 1,271 carries over his four-year collegiate career. He lacks top-end speed and has to get on the edge quicker. He has to pick up blitzes better and chip when a defender closes in.
Most recently, Omon was named MVP of the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game, where he had nine carries for 91 yards. His production has many NFL scouts intrigued and looking forward to his workout at the Scouting Combine. With a solid workout and a good time in the 40-yard dash, Omon has a chance to raise his draft stock. Consider Omon a seventh round selection who has the potential to sneak into the sixth round. He may have been productive at the Division II level, but he’s going to have a bit of a learning curve at the next level.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.