Austin Ekeler heard all of the naysayers when he came to Los Angeles. But that was nothing new, because he’s heard them throughout his playing career.
Whether it be his size, the fact he came from a small town or his status as a Division II player, there were likely few who thought the 5’9″ running back from Eaton, Colorado would make the Los Angeles Chargers’ roster.
But they would be wrong.
Ekeler was selected to the Chargers’ 53-man roster on Saturday as the team announced their final cuts. Fellow running backs Kenjon Barner, Andre Williams and Kenneth Farrow were all cut in the same process.
Now, Ekeler will open the season as the team’s No.3 running back.
That’s a far cry from the practice squad, a destination many analysts likely felt was his best option. On top of that, he’ll now take the field in Week 1 against, of all teams, the Denver Broncos, just about an hour away from where he grew up.
You can’t make these kinds of things up, but sports are full of great stories. You’ll find few better than this one for the Chargers this year.
Ekeler finished the preseason with 87 yards rushing on 15 carries. He added 81 yards on five receptions. He also made plays and showed effort every time he was on special teams. He earned the spot, and it’s nice that the coaching staff recognized that.
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By the way, two of the guys he beat out for that spot are far from nobodies. Barner played in Chip Kelly’s offense at Oregon, churning out 3,623 yards rushing with 48 combined touchdowns during his time there. He was the first free agent signed by the Chargers this offseason. Williams, on the other hand, had 2,177 yards rushing at Boston College in 2013. That ranks as the No.7 best single season in the history of the NCAA.
Ekeler played at Western State University in Colorado, a school most Chargers fans had never even heard of.
But when it came down to putting on the pads and seeing who the best players were, none of those facts mattered. You can’t measure heart and you can’t measure determination, two things Ekeler has in spades.
One lesson that we can never stop learning applies to this great story—hard work pays off—always.