In a round-about way, Reggie Bush helped Darius Reynaud get a dream opportunity – to play running back in the NFL.
Reynaud, who played receiver at West Virginia and has been there for the past two years with the Vikings, is making the move to running back after he impressed coaches while imitating Reggie Bush before the NFC Championship game in January.
Reynaud was playing the role of Reggie Bush for the Vikings' scout team and coaches told him after that loss to the Saints that they liked what they saw. When he returned for offseason conditioning work three weeks ago, he began the transition to a full-time running back.
"The dream is finally coming true and I always did want to play running back. Coming into the league as a younger guy, I came in as a receiver. I didn't want to say it too much, just fill in with the younger guys, and now that I gave a great look I'm glad I'm going back to it," Reynaud said after going through a workout at Winter Park on Wednesday.
Reynaud excelled as a running back in high school. He led Hahnville (La.) High to the Louisiana Class 5A championship as a senior with 1,889 yards on 236 carries and 37 touchdowns on his way to a 15-0 record. He was recruited to West Virginia as a running back and wide receiver, but, with Steve Slaton making his mark in the backfield, Reynaud was quickly shuttled to receiver.
As a receiver at WVU, he set a single-season record with 12 touchdowns in 2007 and tied for fourth with 64 catches. He was only the 10th player in school history with more than 3,000 all-purpose yards (1,550 receiving, 1,126 returning and 410 rushing).
Now, it's back to learning to play running back.
"It's going pretty good. I thought it would be kind of hard coming from receiver to running back. These last three weeks have been getting in the playbook," Reynaud said. "(Running backs coach Eric Bieniemy) has been working out with me and it's all been coming out pretty good with me."
Most of his time so far has been spent digesting his responsibilities when it comes to picking up blitzes.
"That's the hardest adjustment. Anybody can run the ball, anybody can catch. The thing is protecting the quarterback. That's the main thing to focus on with the running backs," he said.
"The first day, that's the first thing (Bieniemy) said. The No. 1 thing is protecting the quarterback. Any other thing you can do is just natural, but quarterbacks, we need them in the league. The first thing we need to do is protect them. The last few weeks that's all we've been working on was protections."
The Vikings put a lot of responsibility on the running back to make adjustments on the fly with the offensive line and have at least a handful of defenders that they are supposed to look for coming on a blitz. It's not an easy adjustment for someone who has been playing receiver for the last six seasons.
"First day they gave us all a playbook, (Bieniemy) sat me down, showed me some stuff and said, ‘It might seem crazy, but it's not once you pick up on it.' It's coming natural to me now," Reynaud said.
He is putting in more time studying film than he did as a receiver, but it's a commitment he's happy to make.
"It's a new thing for me. I'm at the highest level so I've got to up my game up so I'm ready to go when they call my number. It's going pretty good right now," he said.
"Any way for me to get on the field, if I've got to play center or quarterback or anything, I'll do it."
While blitz pickup will likely take some more time to hone, he does hold one advantage over the other young running backs trying to be the primary backup to Adrian Peterson – Albert Young, Ian Johnson and James Johnson. He knows he's got the open-field moves and pass-catching ability from his days out at receiver.
"That's my biggest advantage coming in from the receiving corps going to running back. Running routes with the receivers the last two years, that's the advantage I have over some of the guys. But it's just natural coming out the backfield catching balls. Learning protections is a whole new thing."
But it's all part of his dream to return to running back.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Reynaud ready for running back
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