Before They Were Pros: Toby Gerhart

Toby Gerhart spent the first part of his offseason defending his quickness and speed, and it was no different in front of reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. See what he had to say about his skills, his technique and his running style before he knew he was going to the Vikings.

On being a Heisman Trophy runner-up …

"The glitz and the glamour and the awards circuit took a lot of time. It's time to get back and start training again."

How important is the 40-yard dash?

"What I put most emphasis on in my training was the 40 and that's been my biggest criticism, the speed thing. I plan on going out tomorrow and running a good time. I don't know if it's pressure. I see it more as an opportunity to go out and compare myself with the other guys and compete."

Any specific goal time tomorrow?

"Fast. We'll see. [He ran an electronically timed 4.60.]"

On his weight of 231 pounds …

"That's right where I want to be."

On dealing with the stereotypes that come with being a white running back …

"I was talking to John Lynch and kind of joking around because he was kind of in the same situation as a safety. I've been compared with the other ‘white guys' that have played my position. I get compared to (John) Riggins, (Mike) Alstott and stuff like that. But I'm color blind. I'm a running back. I compare my running styles to the likes of Eddie George or Corey Dillon, those type of guys."

What if someone sees you as a fullback?

"I see myself as a running back at the next level. If (fullback) is asked of me, I'll do it. The team's above all else. But I firmly believe that I have the skill set to play running back at the next level."

On his Combine experience …

"I've just been trying to have fun and enjoy it. Everybody talks about how nerve-wracking it is, how much pressure there is. We've been playing football a long time and playing for five weeks now. It's time to just relax and let it go and have fun, don't think about anything and let it all show."

Know anything about John Harbaugh?

"A little bit, just hearing stories from (Stanford coach Jim) Harbaugh and his father. From what I've been told, they're all identical, starting with the father. I had him as a running back coach for the bowl game and I don't know how old he is, but he's fiery as can be. He's out there jumping around, screaming, yelling and the same thing is passed down to Jim, and I'm sure it's the same way with his brother. They're exciting to play for, they're enthusiastic and they bring the best out in their players."

Sounds like they're crazy …

"Crazy in a good way. They all live, breathe and die football."

If he likes contact as a runner …

"I think that's what my M.O. has been through college – the physical, get north, get south, move the chains, score touchdowns. I throw in the little wiggle every now and then, but I'm a physical runner."

On former FB Tom Rathman of the 49ers …

"I talked with him yesterday and he said he was going to be running the drills. He said relax and have fun. They're there to help us and they're not trying to throw anything tricky and make us look bad. It's a chance to show our assets and that's what we're going to do."

On the 40-yard dash …

"Of course I want to run that good time and prove that I have the speed. If I run a bad time I'll have another chance at my Pro Day. But I've had quite a bit of good film and shown that I've been productive on the field."

Even though you finished second in Heisman voting, do you feel like you're coming into the Combine under the radar?

"A little bit. That's what's great about this thing. It's a chance to go out there and compare yourself to the best. Tomorrow's a chance to go out there and run with the best of them and prove to teams you can play at their level, if not better."

Do you think you're a first-round draft pick?

"I'll go as high as I can go. That's out of my control."

Is criticism of your speed justified?

"I think I'm a little faster than people believe. I'm excited to run tomorrow and show that."

How did playing baseball help you in football?

"There's certain things that can carry over, the hand-eye coordination. In baseball you deal with frustration a lot more. That's a game of failure and you can't beat yourself up over it. A lot of time I'm my own worst critic. I can get on myself if something doesn't go right. I think baseball's kind of taught me to get over the last play and make the best out of the next one."

If baseball is over for him …

"Yes, baseball's done for me now"

On having to change his running style because you can't run over everyone in the NFL …

"I think you have to adjust to it a little bit, but over my last three years I've played with quite a few guys that are in (the NFL) and, yes, everybody's bigger, everybody's stronger, everybody's faster, but I'm going to have to learn to dodge some hits, not take them all the time. But I still think the physicality, breaking arm tackles … I'm not going to try to go head-up with everybody all the time, give them a little wiggle and get through an arm tackle. I think you're going to learn to dodge some hits at times."

How are your blocking and receiving skills?

"I think I'm a good pass protector. Of course I've got to get better technique-wise. I lead with my head. I've got to strike with my hands more. But I consider myself a smart player, a student of the game. I pick up blitz keys and am smart in terms of learning the playbook, so I know I'll be able to learn the system and be able to pass protect. In terms of route running, I think I've got good hands. I didn't really have a chance to showcase that at Stanford. I was in protection quite a bit, but I look forward to showcasing that as well."


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